August 3, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The United States has welcomed the African Union (AU) decision to extend the mandate of its High Level Implementation Panel on North and South Sudan (AUHIP) for more six months.
- President Omar al-Bashir (R) walks out with Thabo Mbeki (L) and President Salva Kiir after a meeting in 2011 (Reuters)
A ministerial meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on 29 July extended the panel’s mandate until January after its chair Thabo Mbeki had presented the panel’s "final" report, surveying its work from October 2009.
The AUPSC said recent deterioration in relations between the two countries, necessitated the extension of the AUHIP mandate.
"We commend the tireless efforts of the AUHIP and its members, former Presidents Thabo Mbeki, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as the continuing valuable role of the Chair of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UN Special Envoy Haile Menkerios and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA)", partly reads a statement from the US embassy in Khartoum.
The US, in the statement, strongly urges Sudan and South Sudan to seize the opportunity presented by the AUHIP’s efforts and to fully and unconditionally implement all aspects of the 27 September agreements as the basis for normal and productive relations.
It further expressed concerns over the humanitarian crises in Sudan and South Sudan, pledging its full to the AUPSC in calls for both governments to facilitate humanitarian access to affected populations.
Meanwhile, the US also underlined its support for the people of Abyei and the approach outlined by AUPSC, which sets out a meaningful path towards determining Abyei’s final status in accordance with agreements already signed by both parties.
"We note in particular the proposal by the AUPSC calling on the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to meet, with the facilitation of the AUHIP, to resolve their differences in this regard, with a view to urgently establish the Abyei Referendum Commission and conclude decisively the investigation into the May 4 attack on a UNISFA [United Nations Integrated Force for Abyei] convoy, killing Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief Kuol Deng Kuol and a UNISFA peacekeeper," the statement notes.
Last month, the Misseriya Arab tribe renewed their rejection of the AU proposal for holding a referendum in the disputed oil-producing region this October.
This proposal would effectively make the majority of voters come from the Dinka Ngok tribe, aligned with South Sudan thus putting the Arab Misseriya nomads, who spend several months yearly in Abyei grazing cattle, at a disadvantage.
A referendum initially scheduled for January 2011 to decide the fate of the Abyei border area failed to take place over disagreements between Khartoum and Juba about who is eligible to participate in the vote.