August 26, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan’s government has back racked from its initial decision to send a steering committee to Abyei, putting an end to recent tensions over the administrative status of the contested area.
- Internally displaced people gather in Turalei, in the south’s Twic county, about 130 km (80 miles) from Abyei town, May 27, 2011. (Reuters)
Based on reports by the UN mission in the Abyei area (UNIFSA) reports, Khartoum recently accused Juba of deciding to unilaterally send the former administration to Abyei town and announced it will send another committee appointed by President Omer Al-Bashir.
These recent developments took place as the two parties, in the recent talks held in Addis Ababa, failed to form a new administration, because Juba wants a member of the southern-aligned Dinka Ngok tribe to be appointed at the head of Abyei Legislative Council but Khartoum refuses saying Juba cannot dictate its choice.
According to the 20 June deal, the head of the administration is appointed by Juba and the speaker of the legislative body is picked by Khartoum.
The Sudanese government decided Sunday to not send a steering committee to Abyei saying it received further clarifications about the issue.
Al-Khiar Al-Fahim, co-chair of Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) stated in Khartoum on Sunday that he advised the Sudanese government to not send a steering committee and to stick with the 20 June deal.
He further said he took this initiative following a telephone call, he said, had received from Luka Biong, who explained him what was actually done on the ground. He however blamed the AJOC co-chair for not consulting him before to deciding on such a move.
The Sudanese official stressed that the decision was taken after a UN report condemning Juba for unilaterally deciding to dispatch the former administration to Abyei after the return of civilians from Agok where they were based since May last year.
He was referring to a report by UNIFSA to the secretary general on 25 July saying that the UN mission in the area received on 5 July "a copy of a written administrative order dated 26 June from the South Sudanese co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, Luka Biong Deng, directing the former Abyei Area Administration to immediately relocate its secretariat from its current location in Agok to Abyei town."
In a statement released on 23 August, Luka Biong, AJOC co-chair from the South Sudanese side, dismissed "baseless and unfounded" allegations that Juba formed unilaterally an administration in Abyei.
Biong said he only asked civil servants to return to Abyei in order to provide basic services to the returnees following the withdrawal of the Sudanese troops from the area.
"These civil servants consist of teachers, engineers, nurses, administrators, health workers and other workers whose salaries were paid by the Government of Sudan before the invasion of Abyei in May 2011," he stressed.
The African Union mediation intends to hold a summit between presidents Salva Kiir and Omer Al-Bashir over Abyei.
The two parties failed to organise a referendum on the future of the region as they disagree on who can take part in this process. Khartoum says the nomadic Misseriya herders have to be involved in the process but Juba insists that the nine chiefdoms of the Dinka Ngok plus the few Misseriya people settled there can be part of the process.
Juba also intends to contest the areas the arbitration court placed out of Abyei territory in July 2009 through the boundary demarcation committee or to bring the issue before the international justice if no deal is sealed.