July 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Representatives of Sudan and South Sudan at the level of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) are due to hold a meeting on 5 August to discuss matters relating to the security and humanitarian situation in the disputed region.
- FILE PHOTO - Refugees displaced from Abyei
AJOC joint chair from the Sudanese side, Al-Khair Al-Faheem, said on Sunday that the meeting will discuss agendas of the humanitarian situation as well as the formation of the Abyei police service. He failed to mention where the meeting will take place but it is likely to be in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where negotiators from both sides have been engaged in separate talks regarding oil and security issues.
The AJOC was established as part of the 20 June 2011 agreement signed in Addis Ababa between the two countries to handle security-related matters in the region following the withdrawal of the Sudanese army from Abyei, which only happened in May this year after a year of occupation.
Thousands of Abyei residents fled their homes when Sudan seized the area in May 2011 in response to an attack by southern troops.
Abyei is now controlled by a UN force of Ethiopian peacekeepers mandated by Addis Ababa agreement to keep security in the region until the dispute is resolved.
Addis Ababa agreement also provided for the establishment of joint executive and legislative councils in Abyei but their formation has been delayed due to disagreements between the two sides. The issue has been recently referred to Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Al-Faheem said that Sudan is keen to implement the Addis Ababa deal and the Abeyi Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which stipulates a referendum in Abyei to determine whether it belongs to Sudan or South Sudan.
That referendum was supposed to take place in January 2011 at the same time as the one that led to South Sudan independence but the vote was stalled by disagreements over the eligibility to participate.
South Sudan, which recently proposed that the referendum be organized by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), says only Abyei’s indigenous population of Dinka Ngok groups should vote and opposes Sudan’s demand that the Arab nomads of Al-Messiryah be allowed to participate.