August 22, 2013 (JUBA) – The Abyei community have petitioned the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) over delays in processes for the conduct of a referendum in the disputed region.
- Members of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) attend a meeting (AU photo)
In a letter addressed to AUPSC chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the community demanded that the regional body help overcome “roadblocks” allegedly created by the Sudanese government in order to undermine a referendum on the future of Abyei.
The ballot was initially scheduled to take place simultaneously with that in South Sudan in 2011, but was postponed after both Sudans failed to agree on voting eligibility and who should chair the region’s referendum commission.
The vote is crucial in determining whether the disputed region belongs to the South or neighbouring Sudan, partially defining the border between the two countries.
In the letter dated 20 August and the extended to Sudan Tribune, the community insists the referendum “is a right of the Ngok Dinka community and other eligible Sudanese and South Sudanese residing in the area that was provided by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and is not contingent upon approval of or implementation by either government”.
“The referendum is being used as a pawn in a dangerous game between Sudan and South Sudan as the two countries negotiate outstanding CPA issues”, the letter partly reads.
The letter, which was also copied to the United Nations secretary-general, highlights issues such as the AU mandate, border demarcation, security and participation of those eligible to vote as being key to the success of the proposed referendum.
The community argues that a successful referendum will not only benefit Abyei’s permanent and temporary residents, but also underscores the importance of building peace between Sudan and South Sudan.
KHARTOUM REJECTS PLAN
Meanwhile, the Sudanese government on Wednesday reiterated its rejection to hold a referendum on the future of the Abyei area, stressing that priority should be given to establishing local institutions and providing public service to civilians there.
According to the semi-official news service, SMC, Khartoum’s latest position on the matter emerged during a meeting between the Sudanese co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), Al-Khair Al-Faheem, and South Sudanese ambassador to Khartoum Mayan Dut Waal.
SMC reported that the two leaders had met to discuss ways to resolve the current deadlock over Abyei.
However, while Waal spoke about the need to achieve positive changes in Abyei through a referendum in line with last year’s AU proposal, the Sudanese AJOC co-chair reportedly opposed to the referendum process until certain conditions were fulfilled.
The AU proposal, which matches with the South Sudanese position, provides to hold the referendum without the participation of the Khartoum-aligned Misseriya nomads, which enter the region periodically to graze their cattle.
“Any arrangements undertaken by the South Sudan to hold a referendum [in Abyei] are illegal, and no party can organise the referendum independently without the other, considering that the vote is one of the tools of the final solution to the issue”, Al-Faheem is reported to have told the South Sudanese envoy.
The Sudanese official stressed those working to hold the referendum must understand that the temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei area of 20 June 2011 prevent unilateral organisation of the process.
Plans to hold the crucial vote have continued to stall eight years after the signing of the CPA which paved the way for South Sudan’s independence in July 2011, amid ongoing disagreements between both parties over who should take part in the ballot.