London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Salva Kiir Mayardit, the first vice president of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan, has cancelled his visit to the British capital, London that was scheduled to begin next Monday. The visit was cancelled because the British Foreign Office made changes on the program that included the cancellation of a meeting between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Salva Kiir. This drove the government of Southern Sudan to inform the British Government about the cancellation of the visit. Meanwhile, the People’s Army of the government in the south refused to tie the arming of its forces to the referendum on self-determination of the people in southern Sudan at the end of the transitional period in 2011.
Informed sources in the southern Sudan government that preferred to remain unanimous told Asharq Al-Awsat that Kiir cancelled his visit to London that was scheduled to begin on Monday after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined to hold a joint meeting between them that was part of the initial program of the visit. The sources added that it was the British Government that had invited Kiir in the first week of this month and postponed the meeting to next Monday due to the prior engagements of the British prime minister in the G8 summit convening in the Italian capital, Rome. The sources added that Kiir approved putting back the visit to next Monday; however, the British Foreign Office made another change on Kiir’s program, including his meeting with Brown due to prior engagements. The sources went onto say: “After the meeting between Kiir and Brown was cancelled, the government of southern Sudan decided to cancel the entire visit, refusing to downgrade Kiir’s meetings to Foreign Office officials and several members of the House of Commons”. The sources denied that there is a crisis between the government in the south and 10 Downing Street, saying that the mistake was made by aides that set the schedule of the visit. They pointed out that the government of the south informed the British Embassy in Khartoum that the first vice president and president of the government of southern Sudan cancelled the visit to London. They added that the arrangement for any future visit by Kiir to London will be set by Juba [regional capital of Southern Sudan]. They went on to say that visits to a number of European countries that Kiir was to make were also cancelled.
In another development, General James Hoth, the chief of general staff of the People’s Army of the semi-autonomous government of southern Sudan, made a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat in which he declined to make a link between the arming of his forces and the referendum on the right of the people in the south to determine their future that was set in the comprehensive peace agreement in 2011. He said that tying the arming of the People’s Army to the referendum on the right to self-determination is silly. He pointed out that the government of the south bought weapons last year. He went on to say: “There is absolutely nothing new on the issue of buying weapons”. He said that the comprehensive peace agreement stipulated that the People’s Army has the right to arm and train its forces. He added: “Do they want us to arm ourselves with sticks and batons? This cannot be and will not happen. We are a national army that is also defending the lands of Sudan in the south”.