October 20, 2013 (JUBA) – The African Union Peace and Security Council on Monday expressed “deep” concern at the prevailing situation in the Abyei, urging leaders of the two Sudans to take concrete steps to resolve the impasse in the disputed oil-producing area.
- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) speaks beside Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir as he arrives for talks at Khartoum Airport, September 3, 2013 (REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
The council issued this statement ahead of Tuesday’s summit between South Sudan president Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir in the capital, Juba.
The visit, which officials say, seeks to strengthen relations between Sudan and its southern neighbour comes barely a month after the two countries signed an agreement allowing establishment of official entry crossing points on both sides of the border and committing to honour past pledges, including releasing of prisoners of war.
The AUPSC, in its statement, said the summit was part of the ongoing efforts to consolidate the progress made in the normalization of relations between the two countries and to address outstanding issues in their relations.
“Council strongly appealed to the two Heads of State to seize the opportunity of their Summit meeting to take concrete steps to address the challenges at hand in Abyei, as outlined in communiqué PSC/AHG/COMM/2. (CCCXCVII) adopted at its 397th meeting held at the level of the Heads of State and Government, in New York, on 23 September 2013”, its statement read in part.
The Council, it stressed, also agreed to review the situation in Abyei and will finalise arrangements on its impending visit to the contested region, in light of the outcome of the summit between the two leaders.
Both leaders, at a similar summit held in the Sudanese capital last month, fully committed themselves towards implementing the cooperation agreements they signed in September 2012.
Resolving the final status of Abyei still remains a major issue between the Sudan and South Sudan after the latter broke away from the former in July 2011, leaving several unresolved post-secession issues.
However, as the two heads of states meet in Juba, the AUPSC is calling upon to accept last year’s AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) proposal on resolving the final status of Abyei.
Last year, the AU mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei this month, but stated that only those residing permanently in the area will be allowed to vote in the plebiscite and decide whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan.
The Sudanese government, however, rejected a AU proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum saying it ignored that the eligibility of the Misseriya.
OPPOSES UNILATERAL REFERENDUM
Meanwhile, the AUPSC strongly appealed to the two countries to refrain from any unilateral action and statement that may impede progress towards the search for a lasting solution in the region.
It instead called urgent need to establish the Abyei Area Referendum Commission, including the review and adoption of a revised referendum law in line with the AUHIP proposal and the submission by the two countries of the list of their nominees to the panel.
The Ngok Dinka openly declared their intention to conduct the Abyei area community referendum this month after a general conference it community held on Friday in Abyei town.
The move, which was inadvisable by African and international bodies, would put the area at high risk of communal violence between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya who claim also the ownership of the region.
The referendum, the community said in a statement emailed to Sudan Tribune by the former Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee Luka Biong, should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, while calling upon the international community, media houses and relevant organisations to monitor and observe the process.
No specific date was, however, fixed for the self-determination vote. However since Saturday reports emerged saying that the vote would be conducted during the last days of the month and the result would be announced on 31 October.
A civil society group on Monday urged both presidents to agree on the way forward for Abyei referendum and how to resolve other outstanding post independence issues.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) also called on the the international community and the partners of the CPA to show commitment for full implementation of the 2005 peace deal.
North and South Sudan fought over two decades of civil war, which only ended with the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Kenya.
Under the CPA protocol on Abyei, however, the people of the contested region should have conducted their referendum at the same time as the South Sudanese, but was postponed due to disagreements between North and South Sudanese leaders.