By Beny Gideon Mabor
October 25, 2013 - This policy brief underscores form and content of the head of states summit in Juba this October 2013 and the surrounding events. It focuses much more on Abyei referendum as the bottom-line agenda amongst outstanding issues in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. Three days ago, Sudan’s President Omer el Bashir arrived Juba on 22 October, 2013 for a meeting with his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit. The meeting was welcomed by international persons and institutions as gesture of good will to improving bilateral relations between two countries.
This is reciprocal visit since South Sudan gained independence two years ago from Sudan. In a rare presidential meeting, Abyei referendum was supposedly to dominate discussion amongst other outstanding issues, as part of ongoing efforts to consolidate normalization of relations between the two countries. Indeed, the presidential summit was a golden opportunity on Abyei Area including agreement on definite timeline of Abyei Referendum this October 2013.
The Ngok Dinka people are only in dire need to hold their self-determination referendum within the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA 2005 and supplemented by African Union High Level Implementation Panel respectively. Despite the u-turn position of the Government of South Sudan to distance itself from unilateral action on Abyei referendum; I believe the SPLM party which negotiated the Abyei Protocol on behalf of the Ngok Dinka people has now divided itself over Abyei issue. The creation of dissenting opinion within the ruling party is a big credit to NCP-led government and the will continue building defense strategy to win the balance of power in negotiations as usual.
In a confirmation statement, the first Deputy Chairperson of SPLM party, member of the political bureau and leader of delegation to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2009 on Abyei file Dr. Riek Machar Teny has pointed out that the ruling party in South Sudan should stick to the initial proposal by the African Union (AU) for the people of Abyei to exercise their self-determination’s referendum this month”. The SPLM Deputy Chief asserted that Misseriya members who are residing in Abyei after the court ruling should be considered mere traders who no longer have the right to participate in the Dinka Ngok referendum.
On the same note, other important topics of the presidential summit discussed were to revitalize cooperation agreement, inter alia the boarder access, abolition of entry visas for the holders of diplomatic, special and official passports, security arrangements and economic related matters. The question is how these common benefit proposals work well when Abyei Area, the bridge between the North and the South is not fully stable considering unpredictable behavior of NCP-led Government in the course of implementing Abyei Area Administration.
On Abyei file, the both leaders failed to come out with tangible achievement rather repeating previous arrangements to establish Abyei Area Administration, Council and Police organs, and reaffirmed that 2% share of oil revenues, including arrears, will be paid to the Abyei Administration”. Apparently, there is nothing new in this resolution because it’s repeated in all resolutions of negotiations except 2% share of oil revenues is the only renewed product of Juba presidential summit.
It is mindboggling how this interim arrangements help expedite the final status of Abyei when it was there since 2005 and did not finalized the Abyei contentious issue. Strategically, the consultation made by civil society organizations on Abyei and led by Community Empowerment for Progress Organization CEPO correctly define Abyei from three different perspectives namely Sudan-South Sudan and competitive perspectives. The latter position is unfolding tie because it is thought by either country to be hidden interest. However, evidence shows that Khartoum Government always connects Abyei with security assurance while South Sudan connects Abyei with economic interest. Consequently, people become victims in such endless competitions. It must be proven either of two to vote in self-determination as an end result to break this tie.
According to the voices on street in South Sudan and around the world, South Sudan leadership is accused to have cheaply given in Abyei for flow of oil in the best economic interest and viability of the two states particularly shrinking economic situation in South Sudan where almost 98 % of its fiscal budget singlehandedly depends on oil. Nevertheless, the SPLM-led Government failed to diversify other non-oil revenues to improve it economic development. Regrettably, such decision by the SPLM-led Government raised cloud of doubt to the credibility of South Sudan in support of the Ngok Dinka People in their just cause for peaceful settlement. It also raises wider concern why there are no redlines on the side of South Sudan in Abyei negotiations, unlike Khartoum government that has a lot of redlines on their sides.
In a plain language and without Ngok Dinka to deicde their fate now, there are reasons to be believe that there will be no Abyei referendum in the foreseeable future because of the following reasons: First, NCP-led government is convinced that the Ngok Dinka have no majority support from South Sudan; Khartoum is convinced that South Sudan has failed in the diplomatic front to challenge the contrary before the international community; and further Khartoum is convinced that there is no military might in South Sudan even if the matter may resort to confrontation and war.
Khartoum Government will only allow Abyei Referendum to take place when the secure economic domination in South Sudan following advice from Norway and other eastern allies. This is seen when Norway was so supportive of the SPLM movement and Dr. John Garang in particular because he was believed to be a unionist. And this was confirmed in an interview with Norwegian Diplomat and expert on Sudan affairs who was extensively involved in pre-negotiation and CPA negotiations dated 3 November 2006.
Historically, Abyei problem has been dragging on since 1965 when hostilities first broke out between the Dinka Ngok and Missiriya with massacre of 72 Dinka Ngok in the Misseriya town of Babanusa. During the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972, the Abyei Area was granted self-determination referendum under Article 3 (iii) of Addis Agreement for the Dinka Ngok to voluntarily choose whether to remain in the North or to join the South. Yet Khartoum administration failed to implement the agreement. The second solution for Abyei was under Abyei Protocol in the Comprehensive Peace agreement 2005 where it was also granted self-determination to choose its political status subsequently with that of the South, but Khartoum government failed the referendum and South Sudan who was part of the Ngok Dinka did not vigorously confront the matter.
In conclusion, the Ngok Dinka people are so tired to wait for almost 40 years for self-determination referendum and have truly run out of patience. Since there is no final status of Abyei ever touched by the two leaders, it’s high time for Ngok Dinka to unilaterally decide their fate. In other words, failure of Abyei referendum this October 2013 under CPA 2005 will not bear any new agreement that may produce another protocol on ending Abyei contestable identity. The Ngok Dinka must go ahead with their unilateral decision as the case may be, to determine their national identity. Otherwise, the question of recognition of self-determination is an issue of international law and should not be politicized by political leadership of the two countries.
Beny Gideon Mabor is a Human Rights Activist and work for South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA). A national Human Rights civil society organization with vision geared towards building an enlightened human rights abiding South Sudan. Prior to joining SSHURSA, the author has worked for South Sudan Ministry of Justice, and a columnist. His research interests include governance, human rights and social accountability. This opinion does not represent SSHURSA position but of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com