September 4, 2013 (JUBA) – Citizens of the contested Abyei region who are employed in various government institutions have been granted leave with pay, apparently to help them attend a referendum voter registration exercise, South Sudan’s information minister said.
- An unidentified woman stands in the central market of Abyei, Sudan, Thursday Jan. 13, 2011,
"We have sent out a circular to all institutions - be they public or private entities - to release the people of Abyei [to] go on special leave with full pay. We want them [to] go to register so that they [can] vote to determine their destiny”, Michael Makuei Lueth said in a statement broadcast by state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Tuesday.
Foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the decision would encourage the people of Abyei working in the government to participate in the voter registration sensitisation exercise.
"It is their right to go and register so that they could vote during [the] referendum. It is important they go now because the referendum requires that those registered in Abyei will be the ones to vote”, said Marial, adding that the proposed referendum would be an historic day for Abyei citizens as it would determine their future.
"The referendum will be the opportunity for [the] people of Abyei to choose if they want to remain in Sudan or return to the South where they were transferred in 1905. This is absolutely the decision which the citizens of Abyei will to have make”, Marial said.
ABYEI WAS NOT PART OF KHARTOUM TALKS
Different members of South Sudan president Salva Kiir delegation to Khartoum summit with his Sudanese counterpart Omer Al-Bashir on Tuesday confessed that the status of the contested region of Abyei was not part of the agendas discussed by the two parties.
“Completely, the issue of Abyei was not one of the items which the two presidents were to discuss. It only came up as one of the issues the two leaders should address to resolves differences as they were pledging to close old chapters and open new pages”, a member of the advance team from South Sudan told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
The official said they (advance team from Juba) “were kept in the dark” until “when the plane carrying president Salva Kiir was landing at Khartoum international Airport that they were informed about the agenda which the two heads of state would discuss.
“They kept us in the dark. We were just dumped in the hotel. We did not know anything relating to the agenda of the summit even when we asked the undersecretary in the Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs who was one of the organizers. He pretended that he was busy”, he said.
The official who did not wanted to be identified claimed Khartoum premeditatedly excluded Abyei from the agendas of the summit because they had sensed that it would not allow open discussions between the leaders.
Justice Deng Biong, who was part of the government delegation which accompanied president Kiir on Tuesday, also confirmed that the issue of his native area of Abyei was not part of the agenda, although they had discussed as delegates from Juba.
"Yes, it was part of the items at the summit. The advance team never included the issue of Abyei in the agenda. We only discussed it separately with our team before going for the summit”, Biong told Sudan Tribune Wednesday.
He said the president touched it as one of the issues they still need to resolve as they were pledging commitment to implement cooperation agreement.
"It only came up in the speeches but it was not on the agenda. Our President brought it up and emphasised the importance of conducting referendum in Abyei after Bashir had spoken. Bashir talked about formation of joint administration and President Salva Kiir stressed on forming referendum commission. That how they summit ended. They did not agree", he explained.
In Khartoum, Al-Khair Al-Faheem, co-chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) told the semi-official news service SMC on Wednesday that African Union reassured him that any unilateral referendum over the fate of Abyei is illegal.
On 25 August the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson, Abu Bakr Al-Sideeg, warned against such move reaffirming that his government does not accept unilateral solutions for Abyei.
He further recalled a recent presidential statement by the UN Security Council on the relations between the two countries stressing on the setting up of civil institutions in Abyei prior to the referendum and to implement the interim security and administrative arrangements in accordance with the June 2011 agreement