Sudan's President orders border with South Sudan open, state media reports

January 31, 2016, 7:16am


A bus prepares to leave a South Sudanese refugee camp to cross the border with Sudan Wednesday. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farram / AFP / Getty Images on CNN

By Tim Hume and Kevin Wang, CNN  

(CNN)Sudan's President has ordered the opening of the border with South Sudan for the first time since the South seceded five years ago, Sudan's state news agency reports.

The Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported that President Omar al-Bashir issued the decision Wednesday, asking authorities to take all measures to implement the action.

The border between the two countries, which have had tense relations since South Sudan's secession, remains disputed.

South Sudan, a landlocked country of about 11 million people in east-central Africa, seceded from Sudan in July 2011 after decades of conflict, making it the world's youngest nation.

The two countries became embroiled in disputes over ownership of valuable oil supplies and eventually signed an agreement to withdraw their respective forces from a 14-mile-wide demilitarized zone between the countries.

But the tensions between the countries were soon overshadowed by a brutal civil war that erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, with forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir clashing with those backing his sacked vice president, Riek Machar.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2.2 million South Sudanese have been displaced, most of them internally, and says that the country has faced serious food shortages and disease as a result of the conflict.

Last year, an African Union (AU) report documented forced cannibalism, gang rapes and death by burning as among the atrocities perpetrated during the country's civil war.

Al-Bashir, who has led Sudan for 26 years, became the world's first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court when charges were filed against him for alleged genocide and war crimes in Darfur, western Sudan.

Last year, he left South Africa just as a High Court in that country had decided to order his arrest.