September 19, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The former U.S. special envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson expressed fury over his successor’s softened stance on the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that redefined the borders of the oil-rich region of Abyei.
- Former US special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson (AFP)
Last year the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague redrew the boundaries of Abyei, ceding key oilfields to north Sudan but gave the South most of the land including Abyei town including huge areas of fertile land and one significant oilfield.
The former north-south foes, who formed a shaky national coalition government in 2005 had referred Abyei’s border to the PCA and both had agreed to abide by its ruling in 2009.
However, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the North appeared to backtrack on the ruling and put forward a new proposal on Abyei that would make the region an "integration zone", split oil resources and give equal representation to Dinka Ngok and Misseriya in local administration and resources of the area.
But the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) flatly rejected the NCP’s proposal.
Last August, the presidential adviser for security affairs and former director-general of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Salah Gosh said that the PCA ruling “did not resolve the dispute”.
This week the U.S. special envoy to Sudan said that he is working to reconcile the "competing themes" where the Arab Misseriya tribe are concerned about having access to the water and the Dinka Ngok want firm control over the territory.
"There’s many competing things and we’re in the process right now of sorting that out. But I don’t think anybody questions the border and where the border should be. They question how fluid the border is, how soft it is, and how if the South – or if Abyei goes with the South – how they will continue to have access and who will govern it," Gration told reporters.
"This is a very emotional issue for both the South and the North, and so there’s a wide gulf right now, and it’s a passionate issue. And – but we’re working very hard to help them find an agreement. This agreement is an agreement that they themselves are going to have to find, and we are trying to create the environment where they can come down and determine how they want to resolve this tough issue," he added.
The apparent watered position sparked anger from Williamson, who told the Boston Globe: “The lesson . . . is that there is no cost to breaking commitments and doing things that cost lives.’’
Last year, fighting erupted in the town between North and South forces killing dozens and displacing 50,000 from their homes.
Williamson, who visited Abyei after the fighting, accused UN peacekeepers of hiding in their barracks during the fighting instead of protecting Sudanese civilians in line with their mandate.
The UN initially rejected the charge but the world body later issued a report stating that “lessons” were learned from the way peacekeepers acted during the incident.