U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he’ll appoint a new special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, after a dispute over oil revenue between the newly separated states brought them to the brink of war last year.
The dispute involves “very significant border challenges” as well as problems related to secularism and Islamic law, Kerry said at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today. He called for a referendum on the status of the disputed Abyei region.
South Sudan seceded in 2011. Most of the formerly united country’s oil fields are in the south. Disagreements over revenue from the crude, which is carried through the north via pipelines, led to a 15-month shutdown of oil production before it resumed last month. The two nations have also deployed troops near the border, and each has accused the other of backing rebels in its territory.
Kerry, who’s attending the 50th anniversary meeting of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, will meet with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti.
The top U.S. diplomat also called on Nigeria to respect human rights as it battles the Boko Haram Islamic militant movement.
“We defend the right completely of the government of Nigeria to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists,” Kerry said. He said he has raised with the government the importance of troops “not themselves engaging in atrocities or human rights violations” as they crack down on Boko Haram.
“To their credit, the government has acknowledged that there have been some problems and they’re working to try to control it,” Kerry said.
Boko Haram has carried out gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja, the capital, since 2009, saying it is fighting to establish Islamic rule. President Goodluck Jonathan imposed emergency rule in three northeastern states on May 14, and the Nigerian army last week began an air and ground offensive against the group.
The State Department yesterday condemned “vicious terrorist attacks” in neighboring Niger this week that left 23 people dead. A group linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb said it participated in the suicide bombings.
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