September 21, 2013 (AWEIL) - South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir on Saturday surprisingly avoided mentioning, at a public rally in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state capital, how his government intends deal with the conflict over the disputed region of Abyei.
- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (Reuters)
It remains unclear why the South Sudan leader avoided discussing Abyei, despite Friday’s major protest by residents from the oil-producing region, who demand the conduct of a self-determination referendum in the region.
Under an African Union proposal, Abyei is due to hold it delayed referendum in October. However, Khartoum wants joint bodies to be created before the plebiscite, whereas Juba prefers to focus on the conduct of the vote.
The plan outlined by the AU panel on the Sudan’s suggests that only residents of Abyei, defined as the nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms could be eligible to vote on whether they want join north or south Sudan.
Khartoum, however, insists that the nomadic Misseriya tribe who spend several months in Abyei every year grazing, be accorded full voting rights.
“It is strange that the president could not mention anything about [the] Abyei conflict. He just focused on the internal matters and left very important issues”, said Simon Chol Deng, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal who attended Kiir’s rally.
Deng said he hoped the president would inform the public about alternative plans his administration has put in place to ensure the final status of the region is determined.
“You know that the people of Abyei are our people that mean what affects them also affect us in one way or the other. We are very concerned about Abyei because we have a public saying in our community that a bug that bits your neighbor can one day reach you, and actually it has reached us already. The 14 mile area can be another Abyei”, said Deng.
The 14 mile area is another disputed area, which is claimed by South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and Sudan’s Darfur region.
President Kiir had extended his tour of Bahr el Ghazal region to Aweil town, capital of Northern Ghazal state, where he is spending a night.
During his public address, Kiir pledged to assess the condition of Aweil civil hospital, construct new roads and look for funds to support construction of the new university he commissioned in 2010.
Kiir also called on the citizens to unite and work together with state administration in order to consolidate peace and efforts aimed at providing basic services to the people.
He was received on arrival by the state governor, Paul Malong Awan along with local ministers, traditional leaders and youth as well as women groups in the area.
He was accompanied by defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, security minister, Mbuto Mamur Mete, health minister, Riek Gai Kok, agriculture minister Beda Machar, deputy roads, bridges and transport.
Other members of the delegation, included James Hoth Mai, general chief of staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).