The Defence Ministers of Sudan and South Sudan will begin withdrawing their forces from a proposed de-militarised zone as the first step in implementing a series of agreements signed in September last year.

The implementation protocol, signed on Friday in Addis Ababa, puts forward a concrete timeframe for the withdrawal of troops and the deployment of a monitoring committee. “D Day is March 10”, said Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa and head of the mediation panel appointed by the African Union, on Friday, adding, “the agreement calls for immediate orders to be issued within D-day plus four days”.

South Sudan broke away from its northern neighbour in 2011 after decades of civil war. The division left the land-locked South with most of the region’s oil reserves, while Sudan retained the pipelines.

In January 2012, South Sudan stopped all oil supplies, pushing both economies to the brink of collapse. A year later, oil production is yet to resume. India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd., a subsidiary of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd; the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC); and Malaysia’s Petronas are the primary players in South Sudan’s oil sector.

Buffer zone

In September last year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and his northern counterpart Omar al-Bashir, met in Addis Ababa to hammer out comprehensive agreements to resolve outstanding border issues, implement a demilitarised zone, and resume the production and export of oil. Yet, all efforts were held up by the absence of a buffer zone between the neighbours.

Creating the buffer zone, both parties said, would hasten the implementation of the remaining agreements.

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