Sudan and South Sudan laid the foundation stone for the free trade zone in the area of Mokhaleef in El Jebelein locality in White Nile state on Tuesday, in a move designed to promote border trade between the two countries. At the same ceremony, the Kosti and El Jebelein free zones were inaugurated, as well as the resumption of river traffic the two countries.

It is hoped that the volume of annual trade exchange between the two countries in the near future will reach $3 billion.

During the inauguration ceremony, Sudan’s Defence Minister Maj Gen Yasin Ibrahim reported that the joint Sudanese-South Sudanese political security mechanism decided to open 10 border crossings between the two countries.

Finance Minister Heba Mohamed said that “the free trade zones, the foundation stone of which has been laid now, will provide many job opportunities for the residents of the region, and achieve great returns for the state treasury”.

She stated that the free zone in its first stage will concentrate on an industrial project for export products that White Nile state abounds in, and reiterated the transitional government’s affirmation to cooperation with South Sudan.

Free trade

Yesterday’s inauguration follows a meeting in the South Sudan capital of Juba on September 12[1] 2019, at which Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and South Sudan President Salva Kiir discussed bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as the opening of the borders between South Sudan and Sudan for free trade.

Last week, the Joint Boundary Demarcation Commission between Sudan and South Sudan signed the full delimitation of the boundaries[2] agreed upon between the two countries in the presence of the representative of the African Union Boundary Commission.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on Friday, the head of the Sudanese border demarcation commission Moaaz Tengu, said that the work of the Commission has been going on for seven years and has held more than 120 meetings since 2005.

Two points remain to be resolved in the next meeting in Addis Ababa. The two countries are contesting the border areas of Abyei, commercial Kaka, Debbat El Fukhar, Jebel Megeines, the 14-mile area south of Bahr El Arab, Hafrat El Nukhas, and Kafia Kingi.


Abyei, the still contested area between Sudan and South Sudan, is the traditional homeland of the Ngok Dinka, who have with strong ties with the South Sudanese Dinka tribe. Herders of the Misseriya, a northern Arab tribe, traverse Abyei and other North-South border areas with their cattle in search of water and pasture in the dry season and to trade goods.

The region witnessed a significant upsurge in cases of cattle rustling, hijacks, and other robberies earlier this year[3]. There is no government or police force in the area and a UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA[4]), is entrusted with overseeing demilitarisation and maintaining security in the area.

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