Barnaba Marial Benjamin says the recent visit of Kuol Manyang Juuk, South Sudan’s defense minister to Egypt was aimed at bolstering diplomatic relations between Cairo and Juba, contrary to media reports that suggested Juuk signed a pact with Egypt seeking military assistance to end the rebellion.
“As a result of regional and international reactions from certain countries, we received a lot of support from countries like Egypt, the Arab League, condemning the attempted failed coup that was conducted by former vice president Dr. Riek [Machar],” said Benjamin. “They have expressed full support for the democratically elected government of the Republic of South Sudan, and I think that’s a real show of solidarity from those countries.”
Benjamin just returned to South Sudan following meetings with officials in Egypt, the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the Arab League to explain the circumstances that led to the crisis in the world’s newest nation.
Some observers say the defense minister’s visit will enable Egypt to build a military base in South Sudan to allow the North African country to better monitor Ethiopia following the two countries dispute over the Nile River.
But, Benjamin dismissed claims that Egypt wants to build an army base in South Sudan. He says South Sudan and Egypt enjoyed warm diplomatic relations when it was part of Sudan.
“These are issues to strengthen relations between Egypt and South Sudan,” said Benjamin. “Our minister was warmly received after he presented a letter from President Salva Kiir to the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. So these are normal diplomatic relations indeed. Egypt is one country that has one of the highest numbers of our students studying in their universities on Egyptian government’s scholarships.”
He says because of South Sudan’s close ties with Ethiopia, Egypt requested the government in Juba’s help to resolve the stalemate with Ethiopia in the Nile River dispute.
“The Egyptians were asking if South Sudan can help in trying to bring Ethiopia and Egypt to resolve the issue of the water in an amicable manner,” said Benjamin.
Benjamin says South Sudan is a friend to all the countries in the region and is disinterested in fomenting conflict between neighboring nations. He says Egypt wants to help end the conflict in South Sudan. Benjamin says Egypt had peacekeeping troops in South Sudan before the country officially became independent from Sudan.
“Egypt had applied to the United Nations if they could also contribute peacekeeping forces to the Republic of South Sudan like the other countries who have contributed troops,” said Benjamin.
Clottey interview with Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan foreign minister
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