By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol
October 12, 2013 - I refer to PBPSM to shorten President Bashir and President Salva Mechanism. The South Sudan and Sudan peace talks processes, coordinated by African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and chaired by the former president Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, put on place many structures and mechanisms. Beside the PBPSM, there are other structures including High Political Level (HPL) which was chaired by Pagan Amum representing South Sudan and Abdel Rahim Husien from the Sudanese government. There are established technical committees on different issues; the committee on economics affairs, the committee on citizenships and immigration, the committee on security matters, the committee on borders demarcation and the committee on Abyei. Each committee is either chaired by a senior member of the ruling party or a cabinet minister from the each state. The committees are authorized to conclude or defer issues of deadlocked to the next level (HPL & PBPSM).
Magically, the PBPSM delivered efficiently and managed to open up a window of opportunity after the troops from the two Armies dragged on their boots into a territory of each country in 2011. The PBPSM resolved different outstanding issues including military confrontations, establishment of demilitarized border zone, oil transportation, establishment of corridors for movement of people and goods, and grant four freedoms.
However, the PBPSM failed miserably to resolve the commencement of the referendum in Abyei, which should be considered a case of human execution understandable in political and social life. One could not expect human being to perform 100% all the time in socioeconomic and political aspects. Any percentage above 50 should be appreciated in social theory. Christianity and Islam teach us of ignorance of human beings. We need to leave a margin for trial an error such that we aren’t considered angels.
AUPSC should not insist on its position pushing the process again to the Agenda of the PBPSM. The possibility of this continuous demand resulting negatively on bilateral relations and the chance of the two nations losing the previous successes, will turn high.
The point I’m making here is that there were many attempts where the AUPSC insisted that the PBPSM must address the issue even with help from other Heads of States but failed. Maintaining negative and unnecessary position on Abyei’s referendum is dangerous to the future of the two countries and AUPSC experience on peacekeeping and peace building processes.
When the AUHIP released its proposal on final status of Abyei in September 2012, the AUPSC indorsed it with condition that the two countries must reach consensus on the proposal within six weeks, despite the fact that the Council was aware- beyond a reasonable doubt- that there will be no consensus between the two parties particularly, on the issue of Abyei. Records are there to justify this claim since the time of the post-referendum negotiations. It was this state of no-consensus that made Abyei’s referendum reaches AUHIP; otherwise it would have been concurrently carried out with the Southern Sudan Referendum.
The AUPSC missed the point in December 2012 when it referred the Abyei issue to the PBPSM which met several times on the same occasion without progress. Instead of endorsing the proposal as final and binding, and seek endorsement from UNSC to enforce its implementation, it again requested the PBPSM consensus.
President Salva declared it in many occasions that he reached a deadlocked with president Bashir on Abyei and urged the regional and international organizations to look for other possible alternatives unfortunately; the AUPSC continuously demanded the PBPSM meeting on Abyei to reach consensus. What consensus the AUPSC wants? Does the consensus mean abandoning Abyei and the Dinka Ngok community to Sudan? What is the understanding here? The two parties have differed on voter eligibility; South Sudan does not see the point of Arab nomads taking part in referendum meanwhile Sudan believes on the right of Messeriyia to vote in the referendum.
This issue of the nomads taking part in the referendum was resolved amicably by the agreements on Abyei and the proposal on the final status itself put it clearly that historically, nomads have no right of voting in similar referenda. But President Bashir insisted that Messeriyia must take part. What do people think that President Salva could tell Bashir to change his mind and abandon this unjustifiable position? For the formation of the administration President Bashir needs 50% which is totally contrary to all agreements on Abyei, despite the fact he (Bashir) and his government recognized the Nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms territory according to the 2009 Hague ruling, and still they are thirstily demanding participation of nomads in the administration.
President Bashir knows very well nomadic communities in Sudan are non-settlers to extent of making registration of their children into schools difficult, leave alone representing them in other territory administration. Why should the Ngok Dinka bear this consequence? It is too much. We have never heard of this situation before and should not be allowed to happen.
October 2013 wasn’t a choice of the Ngok Dinka. Rather, it was a choice of the AUHIP and should be honored by the AUPSC and by the parties to this conflict. The worse scenario AUPSC & UNSC does not consider in their calculations and plans is that the achievements obtained in the Cooperation Agreements reached by the two countries in September 2012, are positively or negatively affected by the referendum in Abyei. Two scenarios would likely happen. Either the Ngok Dinka community frustrates and continues with unilateral referendum, which will be difficult to control or the October 2013 passes without referendum and backtrack the process again to the circle of mistrust and violence.
It’s advisable to AUPSC instead of issuing resolutions warning parties against any unilateral decision on Abyei, and requesting the two presidents meet for the consensus on Abyei, seeks better Alternative and avenue for its own credibility and rescue the decision of one of its organs which proposed October 2013 as deadline for the referendum in Abyei.
The good news is that the United Nations Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA) are already on ground, just need extension of the mandate to include execution of the referendum in Abyei. A lesson from East Timor in 1999 when the UN under Kofi Annan carried out the referendum successfully without influence of Indonesia could be drawn.
Dr. Dhieu Mathok is the author of Politics of Ethnic Discrimination in Sudan and lecturer in the Center for Peace and Development Studies, University of Juba, South Sudan, Juba. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org