JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew in to south Sudan’s capital Juba on Tuesday to try to speed implementation of the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest civil war.
Aides said Ban would try to resolve sticking points in the rollout of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended over two decades of conflict between the northern government and southern rebels.
Ban, on his first visit to Sudan, is also due to visit the war-torn western region of Darfur. He said he had secured a pledge from Sudan’s president to allow a Darfur rebel leader to leave the country for medical care.
A senior U.N. official traveling with Ban told Reuters there were “worrying signals” about the implementation of the north-south peace deal, including delays in the promised pullout of government troops from the south, particularly oil areas.
“There are a number of signs that show there is a need for someone to push the CPA forward,” the official said. “Both sides have indicated their commitment to the agreement. But it is important not to let it slip.”
About 2,000 people gathered in Juba to welcome Ban, waving banners including several in support of former southern rebels and others demanding the northern Sudanese army quit the south.
The army missed a July 9 deadline to redeploy all its soldiers to the north of Sudan, as set out in the peace deal. Sudanese Oil Minister Ahmed Awad al-Jaz said on Saturday northern troops would be withdrawn from oil fields “gradually”.
There were also concerns over delays in implementing a nationwide census, crucial to democratic elections promised in 2009 and a vote on secession for the south due by 2011.
Secretary-general Pagan Amum of the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement said in July that perceived delays by the government in carrying out the peace deal could push southerners to choose independence.
On Darfur, Ban said he had secured a personal pledge from Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to let sick Darfur rebel chief Suleiman Jamous leave the country for medical treatment after more than a year of effective house arrest.
“President Bashir agreed to his immediate release for medical treatment. Bashir said that Jamous would be taken to Kenya as soon as necessary arrangements had been made,” Ban told journalists in Khartoum before leaving for the south.
Jamous, the Sudan Liberation Army’s humanitarian coordinator, was the main liaison between Darfur insurgents and the world’s largest aid operation helping some 4.2 million people in Sudan’s war-ravaged west.
The United Nations had moved him to a U.N. hospital near Darfur over a year ago without informing Khartoum. Sudan has called him a criminal and said it would arrest him if he left U.N. care.
Jamous needs a stomach biopsy that cannot be performed at the U.N. hospital. Last week, he left the hospital for the first time in more than 13 months to walk to the nearby U.N. headquarters to ask to be flown out of Sudan for medical care.
The United Nations said Sudan had promised to allow Jamous to be released in August. But the rebel leader’s supporters said no concrete moves were made to let him travel to Kenya for care.
Jamous is respected in Darfur and considered a consensus builder who could help peace efforts and unify rebel groups.
Ban also urged Bashir to help in the planned deployment of AU and U.N. peacekeepers, and said Bashir had replied that his government would provide “all necessary administrative and logistical support”.
“Time is of the essence,” Ban said. “The government’s cooperation is essential on a range of practical matters.”
Ban said he felt encouraged by the progress. Despite Khartoum’s assent on the force, however, some Western diplomats say that only when troops deploy, probably early next year, will it be clear whether Sudanese authorities are really cooperating.