September 20, 2013 (ABYEI) - Thousands of people from oil-producing region of Abyei community returned to the streets Friday in protest against what they called a delay in the proposed referendum scheduled for October.
- Residents demonstrate in support of a referendum in Abyei region (AP)
The protestors waved banners with messages that requested global leaders to urgently approve the proposal by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel, calling for conduct of the referendum.
“The month of October, 2013 is a sacred deadline for holding Abyei referendum on Self-determination and if it is not honoured then the Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms will decide and declare unilaterally the political future of Abyei area. The UN charter for political, social and civil rights recognises the right for self-determination for every oppressed group in any given country," partly read a petition the protestors presented to the head of the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA).
Therefore, the Ngok Dinka chiefdoms find it necessary without seeking permission from any country to decide their destiny regardless of the consequences that would follow, it added.
The protestors, who gathered in large numbers, also demanded that an Abyei Referendum Commission be urgently formed by the AU with its chairperson directly nominated by the African body.
Also on the list of their demands was a proposed date for the referendum.
A referendum in the contested region was to be held simultaneously with that in South Sudan in January 2011, but both Sudan and its southern neighbour failed to agree on who was eligible to vote.
While Khartoum demands participation of the Arab Messeriya in the referendum vote, South Sudan says only the Dinka Ngok tribal groups from its nine chiefdoms should participate in the much-anticipated plebiscite.
“Since the proposal has been on the AU table for full year without any tangible action, it would be wise enough and more practical for the AU to declare her inability to resolve the Abyei issue within the African house and therefore should refer the Abyei issue to the UN Security Council for further actions”, notes the petition, also extended to Sudan Tribune.
The protestors, in their petition, also asked the AU to halt the Sudanese government from pumping the oil in the area, until such time when mechanisms are agreed on by the two Sudans for equitable and fair sharing of the oil revenues for sustainable development.
“We strongly call upon AU and UNISFA to ensure full withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) from various areas within Abyei area borders especially those stationed in Diffra (Kech) oil fields," demanded the protestors.
"The presence of SAF and other pro-Khartoum militias inform of oil police in many parts of Abyei area is a grave violation to the UN Security Council’s resolution 2046 and this would continue to pose threats to civilians’ safety in the area".
The demonstrators, mostly youth, further said they reject the formation of a joint administration in Abyei with the Messeriya, citing the 2009 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which delimited the Dinka Ngok areas and excluded the Missirriyah areas.
The ruling, according to the protestors, meant the Arab nomads do not have any legal and constitutional rights on Abyei political affairs.
"The AU should take note that if the referendum is not held as agreed in October, 2013, then the Ngok Dinka chiefdoms would not allow by any mean, the Messeriya nomads to graze their livestock in Abyei region until Abyei referendum is conducted," further said the petition.
Signatories to the petition, addressed to the AU Peace and Security Council, included Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms in the area, Abyei civil Society Organisations (ACSOs),Abyei Community Organisation in Juba, Abyei Youth Union (AYU) – Abyei area, Abyei Women Union (AWN) – Abyei area, Abyei Universities’ Students Associations (ABUISA), Abyei Chamber of Commerce (ACC) – Abyei area, Abyei Pastoralists’ Union (APU) – Abyei area, Abyei Teachers’ Union (ATU) – Abyei area and Abyei Human Rights Society (AHRS).
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel Thabo Mbeki, US special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the European Union special representatives to Sudan and South Sudan,among others are also copied in the petition.
A similar protest also took place in Juba, the South Sudan capital with calls for expedition of the proposed referendum in the disputed region.