September 15, 2013 (AGOK, ABYEI) - Senior politicians and community leaders from Abyei have set next month for the conduct of the long-awaited self-determination referendum in the region, but are yet to agree on the date.
- Residents demonstrate in support of a referendum in Abyei region (AP)
A referendum in the disputed oil-producing region was meant to have taken place simultaneously with South Sudan’s own self determination vote in January 2011, but the two Sudans failed to agree on who was eligible for voting.
Deng Alor Kuol, a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) told Sudan Tribune they agreed October was the month for the people of Abyei to determine the status of the region, despite Khartoum’s rejection.
“The decision has been taken as the leadership and as the community. The status of Abyei will be determined in October, which is the decision month. The National Congress Party should not hold the area hostage for no apparent reasons”, Alor said Sunday.
He did not, however, disclose the date on which people will participate in the much-anticipated exercise.
Alor, who currently chairs the Abyei high national committee for referendum, said members of the African Union Peace and Security Council will discuss matters on the disputed region at the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly in New York, this month.
“We are waiting for the outcome of the African heads of state meeting on 23 September at the annual general assembly of the United Nations in New York. All the fifteen African heads of state from the countries which forms the African Union Peace and Security Council will meet US president Barrack Obama and other world leaders on the sideline”, Alor told Sudan Tribune.
And it is expected that one of the issues which they will discuss is the issue of Abyei, he added.
Meanwhile, the head of the local administration in Abyei said people from the region have been returning from different parts of the world, optimistic to participate in the proposed October referendum.
“We are now faced with a lot of challenges, but we are managing. The issue of mobility, especially for those returning to participate in the voter registration process is becoming a concern. People are now brought by planes which are expensive. This is because of flood which had affected most of the roads. Another issue relates to shelter, food and medicines”, said Mario Kuol Monyluak.
The official lauded chiefs for the great role they were playing in identifying people from the area.
“Great things are happening. Our chiefs are playing a great role in identifying their own people. They are organising themselves through headmen and women, which is the traditional way of identifying people. Headmen and women talks to clan leaders down the family level”, he said.
He however called on the international community to support the decision of the people of Abyei, saying a successful referendum will help resolve the final status of the region, thus enabling its inhabitants to live in peace and harmony.