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How Sudan Tribune shoddily reported on vital border security pact

The eyes of neighbours are trained on the sufferings of displaced people in the Central African Republic.

Seven countries have been working closely under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to find a lasting solution to the incessant political upheaval in Bangui.

Latest UNHCR reports indicate that over one million Central Africans have been displaced with more than 600,000 internally displaced persons, and 700,000 refugees.

The Sudan Tribune reported on some of these latest cross-state efforts on November 3, with a story titled ‘South Sudan, CAR agree to implement border security pact.’ South Sudan and CAR had agreed to implement a cooperation pact, “which permits control and monitoring of illegal activities along their common border points,” the report said.

CAR President Faustin-Archange Toudera witnessed the signing of the agreement in Bangui on November 2 with South Sudan’s deputy Interior Minister Marial Gumke. They launched a document titled “Support Platform for the Solution for Forcibly Displaced Persons Related to Central African Republic Crisis.”

Juba and Bangui agreed to implement the cooperation pact for joint control and monitoring of illegal activities along their common border. If implemented, it will enhance security and promote cross-border economic, social, and political relations.

The two-day meeting, which commenced with the Regional Technical Committee (RTC), also discussed in detail the Yaoundé Declaration (2022) as well as its core principles. The declaration demands countries in the region to show responsibility towards finding a collective solution for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. It also forms the basis for the final validation of the Tripartite Agreement which South Sudan and other neighbouring countries signed,” the Sudan Tribune reported.

Who were in Bangui to witness the signing ceremony? “[D]elegates from neighboring countries, international peace actors, financial institutions and the international community.”

The Sudan Tribune covered the event well, but fell short of clarifying several issues.

One, the reporter should have shed more light on the theme of the document launched and linked it with the provisions of The Yaounde Declaration. Through the document signed in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde on 27 April 2022 by seven countries – Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, CAR, Congo, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan – in partnership with UNHCR, the states, among other commitments, declared to collectively pursue “a regional approach to deliver solutions for the refugees, IDPs and returnees from CAR, whilst maintaining protection and self-reliance.” Sudan Tribune didn’t clarify the source and number of the populations in trouble. Neither did it name state signatories to the declaration.

The story should have offered the context for the two neighbours’ resolve to beat illicit cross-border trade. Its writer should have sought help from The Yaounde Declaration of November 15, 2017. Delegates at the 10th plenary meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (The Global Forum) signed the document titled, “A Call for Action to Tackle Illicit Financial Flows Through International Tax Cooperation”.

Among others, the declaration encouraged all African countries and the regional economic communities to strengthen their efforts in the fight against international tax evasion through tax cooperation and transparency, and work towards more regional coordination. It also called for tackling illicit financial flows through improved tax cooperation and transparency.

And to bring the story home, the Sudan Tribune should have stated the length of the boundary between CAR and South Sudan. Demarcated by colonial authorities in 1924, the 300km stretch up north – Kafia Kingi, currently under Sudanese administration – is contested between Juba and Khartoum. According to Sovereign Limits (An authoritative and comprehensive source of land and maritime and boundary data), the remaining 760km extending to the tripoint with DRC to the south is not in question. That is the length CAR and South Sudan have agreed to co-police.

There were more questions the story didn’t answer. For example, what kind of illicit activities take place along this common border and for how long? Who are the players? What are the impacts of the cross-border commercial peekaboo?

Lesson learnt? Stories on efforts to deal with a matter as complicated as the incessant internal conflict in the Central African Republic require journalists to properly understand the geo-politics of the region.

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