August 1, 2012 (JUBA)- The US is backing South Sudan’s opposition to Khartoum’s calls for the contested Abyei region to become part of Sudan’s territory, or for it to be partitioned, according to senior member of Juba’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Luka Biong Deng.
- Dislpaced families flee fighting in Abyei (AFP)
Deng told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday from the venue of the African Union brokered process being held in Addis Ababa that talks between Juba and Khartoum which commenced in June will come to an end on August 2.
"The second phase of the AU Roadmap will now commence with the AUHIP [AU High Level Implementation Panel] preparing final and binding proposals to the African Union Peace and Security Council. The Council will meet on next Friday and then UN Security Council will adopt the decision adopted by AU," Deng said.
However, he said it is likely that the AUHIP will request an extension of the period for the parties to reach an amicable solution.
He claimed that the US government supports conducting a referendum on Abyei, rather than Khartoum’s proposed partition.
South Sudan advocates conducting of the referendum or administrative transfer to Bahr el Ghazal state.
Deng said he recently met with the US Special Envoy who told him that they against the partitioning of Abyei and for a referendum. Deng also said that the official stressed the importance of voter eligibility in the referendum.
An unresolved element of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the Sudanese civil war in 2005, and paved the way for South Sudan’s secession in 2011, has been the status of the traditional bridge between the two regions which are now countries: Abyei.
Both the extent of the borders of the region and the eligibility of residents to vote in a poll on the region’s future status have been contentious. The Permanent Court of Arbitration did not rule of the eligibility of various ethnic groups to vote.
The Misseriya are a nomadic group who spend around six months of the year in the Abyei region. Khartoum, whom the Misseriya traditionally back, says that they should be able to vote in the poll on the future of Abyei’s status.
Juba on the other hand, disagrees saying can take part only the Misseriya who have had a continuous and uninterrupted residence and domicile within the Abyei Area for no less than three consecutive years immediately prior to 9 January 2005.
After thousands of people were displaced when Abyei was overrun by Khartoum’s forces in May 2011, allegedly in response to South Sudanese troops aggression, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was established to police the region.
Since then both Juba and Khartoum claim to have withdrawn their troops from the region.
The US official also stated the US’s commitement to assisting the people of Abyei to return to their homes and to plan future development.
Deng said that in a meeting with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ethiopia’s opposition to the partition solution was also expressed.
He said that the European Union is also pro-referendum and will assist with the development of the region.