Kidnap won’t derail ANC-Sudan relations

2012-05-05 16:37

The ANC this week signed an agreement to build a closer relationship with the ruling party of the country that recently kidnapped a South African citizen.

South African demining expert Thabo Siave is being held in Khartoum, Sudan, following his capture by the Sudanese military.

“We are doing humanitarian landmine clearance on a UN contract and our members have full UN immunity. The abduction took place well within South Sudan territory,” said Ashley Williams, the chief executive of Mechem, the company Siave works for.

“They grabbed them and drove them back to Heglig, where they then said they had arrested them in this disputed area, but they were not there at all.”

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the SA embassy in Sudan was investigating the matter.

Despite this incident Luthuli House welcomed Sudan’s National Congress Party (NCP) Vice-President Nafie Ali Nafie this week to sign a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.

The government of North Sudan used the bad press South Sudan has received for its recent attack on Heglig to start a charm offensive, and its first stop was the ANC.

The memorandum of understanding with Luthuli House this week was to ensure greater cooperation between the two parties.

Nafie came to meet with the ANC leadership, including President Jacob Zuma, because Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir would face arrest if he entered South Africa because of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against him.

Bashir was accused of war crimes.

Because South Africa was an ICC signatory, it was compelled to arrest a person with an ICC warrant.

But international relations adviser to Zuma, Lindiwe Zulu, told City Press South Africa supported the deferment of the arrest warrant.

“We were part of the African Union that said it would negatively affect the internal processes in that country,” she said.

Sudan was considered a pariah state by many Western countries, but in Africa it had significant support, with countries such as Kenya defying ICC rules and allowing Bashir to visit.

The ANC’s insistence on building closer ties with the NCP raised eyebrows because after a successful referendum South Sudan seemed to be everyone’s new best friend.

The NCP used to buy arms from the apartheid government to use in its war against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which fought for the separation of South Sudan.

In the separation of the two countries, the North drew the short stick and most of the oil-rich areas were in South Sudan, making a relationship with it lucrative.

But Sudan had been in the diplomatic game for longer and therefore had more seasoned officials to work the diplomatic circuit, especially in the AU.

So when the attack by South Sudan on Heglig, an oil-rich town that belongs to Sudan, occurred, the NCP saw it as an opportunity to find more sympathetic ears for its cause.

But the ANC was not worried about being seen as supportive of the NCP and its warlord boss.

“We need to influence them and they will try to influence us,” said Zulu.

She said there have been some questions about the new-found friendship.

“We say South Africa has been out there to assist and we don’t hide anything, so we can be open and honest if we speak to both sides.”

But there is also an economic angle.

“We have a lot to offer because our businesspeople can go there and build the dams and roads that need to be built,” Zulu said.

Economic diplomacy has become a cornerstone of South African and ANC diplomacy.

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