By Ngor Arol Garang
May 13, 2011 (ABYEI) — A senior member of the South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), on Friday said his party maintains its position of including the contested region of Abyei in the draft transitional constitution of South Sudan
- A Sudanese celebrate the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Abyei, central Sudan, July 22, 2009. (Photo Mckulka - UNMIS)
The South Sudan will become an independent state on 9 July 2011, after southerners overwhelmingly last January opted for secession from north Sudan. However, the failure to hold a referendum over the status of the Abyei region fuels tension and controversy not only between the north and the south but also among the ruling party and opposition forces in Juba.
In order to ease tension in the region after recent bloody clashes, Sudan’s first vice president and head of south Sudan government, Salva Kiir Mayadrit pledged in a meeting on 5 May with UN, US envoys and a member of AU panel on Sudan, to remove Abyei from the draft constitution of the would be Republic of South Sudan.
"The recommendation by the Constitutional Review Committee represents position of the SPLM on Abyei. The inclusion of Abyei in the transitional constitution of South Sudan has permissible terms", said Michael Makuei Lueth, minister of parliamentary affairs in the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Makuei explained that the permissible terms which the technical constitutional review committee quoted in the inclusion of Abyei in the draft constitution of South Sudan was the existence of the presidency, which Abyei falls under the jurisdiction of, prior to declaration of the independence state of South Sudan.
"The inclusion of Abyei in the draft interim constitution of South Sudan was necessitated by the fact that parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement agreed that Abyei would be administered through the presidency with dual citizens in both North and South during the six years of interim period until when a referendum for citizens of the area to decide where to go is held", explained Makuei.
The senior member of the SPLM further argued that it was from this background that the technical committee found it a constitutional obligation to include the region in the draft constitution of the independent state of south Sudan as done by Khartoum in her new interim constitution.
"It was the Sudanese National Assembly which became the first to include Abyei in their interim constitution without consulting joint political committee of the two parties on what would be constitutional status Abyei under the pretext that it would still be administered through the presidency without considering that the presidency would not be there after the end of interim period. The article 183 of the interim constitution of Sudan includes Abyei under jurisdiction of the presidency", explained minister Makuei.
While the SPLM maintained its position to include Abyei in the draft constitution of south Sudan, 18 southern opposition political parties argued that Abyei should be removed from the constitution until a political resolution was reached through the post-referendum negotiations recommend that Abyei shall join the south Sudan.
"If the status of Abyei is resolved, through a referendum on self determination as provided in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or through political resolution through the post referendum negotiations, and the decision is that Abyei shall be in South Sudan, then the Abyei area will automatically be included in the territory of south Sudan", explained leaders of the opposition parties in a document obtained by Sudan Tribune.
The opposition parties reacted vigorously against definition under article 2 of part 1 of the draft transitional constitution of South Sudan which includes Abyei.
"The territory of the Republic of South Sudan comprises all lands and air space that constituted the three former southern provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Upper Nile in their boundaries as they stood on January 1, 1956, and Abyei Area, the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred from Bahr el Ghazal province to Kordofan province in 1905 as defined by the arbitration Tribunal Award of July 2009", reads part of the draft constitution of South Sudan under article 1-2.
The inclusion of Abyei in the draft constitution of South Sudan generated heated discussions with some seeking removal of the constitution from South Sudanese political circles, Some went to allege that the National Congress Party (NCP) of north Sudan has a hand in the proceedings. But, there is no evidence to back up such claim.
"I honestly do not understand what these so called south Sudanese political parties are up to. I do not really understand any single sense in their arguments because it appears they are using Abyei as a bargaining tool for SPLM to compromise on some of their demands," said Deng Thiep Akok, a senior member of the SPLM.
"They are failing to understand that Abyei belongs to the South by all sources of justifications", Akik emphasized, in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune from Juba, on Friday.
The north Sudan ruling party, including President Omer Al- Bashir, have voiced strong opposition to the inclusion of Abyei in the South Sudan constitution, claiming the region belongs to the north and that Khartoum would not recognize independent state of south Sudan should the south unilaterally decide to include it.