March 21, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has issued a decree appointing Edward Lino the new co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC).
- Members of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee at a meeting (AU)
Lino replaces Luka Biong Deng, who is currently on a one-year fellowship at the prestigious Harvard University, in the United States.
In an emailed statement to Sudan Tribune on Friday, Deng acknowledges the presidential decree, saying it clears the “unnecessary misreadings” among the public regarding his role in AJOC.
“It has come to my attention that the presidential decree relieving me from the position of the co-chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee has created unnecessary misreading. I would like to make it very clear that I did not resign from my position as co-chair of AJOC, but I have requested from president Salva to relief me from the position so that I can focus more freely on advocacy work for our new country South Sudan with focus on Abyei and its relations with Sudan,” the statement reads in part.
The challenges of the new nation and the unique situation of Abyei need more international engagement and advocacy and my work at Harvard may contribute to such engagement, he added.
Before quitting his position Deng said he wrote an official letter to the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), the commander of the United Nations Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA), his Sudanese counterpart at AJOC and the rest of the committee members informing them that Lino will act in his capacity until a new person is appointed by the president.
Deng described his successor as an “exceptional nationalist who dedicated his entire life for the cause of our people.”
“Edward Lino is the right person for the job,” he wrote.
According to the decree, Deng Mading will deputise the newly-appointed AJOC co-chair, with a committee directly supervised by South Sudan’s presidential affairs ministry.
Last month, a planned meeting by a joint technical committee on the formation of the Abyei police service failed after representative from Sudan and South Sudan expressed divergent views on the issues in the disputed oil-producing border region.
In a previous meeting, both countries had pledged to find a mutually agreeable solution on the matter.
However, the two countries failed to reach consensus on the formation of a joint administration in the area, with both parties disagreeing on the composition of the structure to be established. Sudan has demanded 50% representation on the Abyei Area Council, 10% more than its previous share.
“The great differences in the position of the two countries with each being stuck on its own point of view and proposal have caused them to not reach an agreement”, Alkhair al-Fahim, the Sudanese AJOC head told the SUNA news agency.
Al-Fahim, who claims that South Sudan’s proposal was “obstructive”, cited differences over the numbers of police officers proposed by each side.
In an earlier interview with Sudan Tribune, Deng accused the Sudanese government of lacking commitment in the peaceful resolution of the status of the disputed region, despite South Sudan’s willingness.
Since May 2011, Abyei has been devoid of a functional administration after Sudanese forces took control of the area, displacing nearly 105,000 people. Some 4,000 Ethiopian-backed United Nations peacekeeping forces, tasked with ensuring the security of Abyei, have now been deployed in the area.