October 13, 2013 (JUBA/KHARTOUM) - South Sudan maintains its full support of October’s unilateral vote to determine the final status of Abyei, despite the failure to reach a deal with neighbouring Sudan, its vice-president said Friday.
- Vice-president James Wani Igga (C) addressing South Sudanese in New York (Photo: Moses Lomoyat)
“We will not give up, we will never surrender and we want to assure you that we will not let Abyei down. Never, ever will the government and people of South Sudan turn their backs [and] not stand with the people of Abyei to decide their future”, James Wani Igga said in a statement on state-owned SSTV.
His remarks came days after president Salva Kiir wrote to the African Union Commission (AUC), requesting the continental body to take complete responsibility over the impasse between the two countries.
In a letter delivered by the country’s foreign minister, Kiir said he saw no possibility of reaching an understanding with Khartoum over the disputed oil-producing region anytime soon, even if discussions continued for 100 years.
However, the vice-president said his country will continue to cooperate with Sudan to implement an agreement on the final status of Abyei through a referendum which was fixed for October by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
According to Igga, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) accepted the proposal as “representing a fair, equitable and workable solution”.
“The international community must ensure that this proposal is implemented expeditiously”, Igga said in the statement.
Ambassador John Andruga, one of the officials who accompanied Igga to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting last month, said the proposal to conduct Abyei referendum had already been approved by the AU.
“So the African Union must stand by its decision and ensure that [the] vote proposed one of its organs is carried out as per the proposal. There should be no argument about this”, Andruga told a South Sudanese gathering in New York, adding that the government stood ready to support the conduct of a vote on the region.
A referendum on Abyei was to be held simultaneously with that of South Sudan in January 2011, but both Sudan and South Sudan failed to agree on who was eligible to participate in the vote.
Sudan insists that the Arab nomadic Misseriya tribe, many of whom enter the region to graze their cattle for part of the year, should be allowed to participate. Khartoum also demands that interim institutions be established in Abyei first before any vote takes place.
Juba, on the other hand, has backed a proposal by the head of the AUHIP, Thabo Mbeki, recommending that only the Ngok Dinka permanently residing in the area be granted full voting rights.
“QUIETNESS BEFORE THE STORM”
In a recent You-Tube video, Misseriya tribal leader Sadig Babo Nimir blamed the “irresponsible and irrational behaviour” of the Dinka Ngok elite for insisting on a unilateral vote.
Describing the current situation in Abyei as the “quietness before the storm”, Nimir reiterated that the proposal of the AU mediation had been rejected by the Khartoum government and the Misseriya tribe.
“The Misseriya will not accept any referendum at any time without their participation”, he said, underlining that under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the two countries that led to the independence of South Sudan Abyei falls within Sudanese borders.
Nimir, who is a member of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), also accused the regime of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir of alienating the Misseriya and the other political forces from taking part in efforts to resolve the dispute.
He added that the Misseriya no longer trust the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and that a regime change in Sudan would help pave the way for a peaceful solution.
However, Misseriya leader Adam Abdel Rahman Al-Radi, who supports the NCP, told the semi-official Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) that the South Sudanese army had massed troops near the Abyei border.
Al-Radi, who hailed the AU’s decision not to support any unilateral vote to determine the fate of the Abyei area, warned that they have 15,000 combatants ready to defend the region against any aggression.