October 25, 2013 (JUBA) - The leadership of the South Sudan Youth Union has condemned the government’s decision not to support the conduct of a unilateral referendum to determine the future status of the contested border region of Abyei.
The union was reacting to comments made on Wednesday by South Sudanese information and broadcasting minister Michael Makuei Lueth, in which he distanced the government from ongoing political activities in Abyei, stressing that the plebiscite needs the agreement of both countries.
Speaking at a press conference, Lueth told journalists the activities ongoing in Abyei were the work of pressure groups and civil society organisations, and that the government had no part.
“It is the people of Abyei who are doing that and not the government of South Sudan”, said Lueth, who also questioned what the outcome of a unilateral vote would achieve if it is not recognised by either country.
The comments drew mixed reactions from the public, with government critics and observers claiming Juba had “traded” the region for oil flows.
In a statement issued by the union and extended to Sudan Tribune on Friday, youth leader Steven Puoch Riek Deng said the union rejected the government’s position, saying the people of Abyei were deserving of support.
He said for the same government who had sat at the negotiating table on behalf of the people of Abyei to now abandon them was both “unacceptable and deplorable”.
“The people of Abyei [have] suffered a lot. They deserve peace, stability and security. They deserve to be support and not to be let down by the government of South Sudan and the people of South Sudan at a time they need this support the most”, he said.
“The statements made by the minister of information represents a slap on the face to the people of Abyei and it is a great shame for [the] South Sudan government to abandon [the] people of Abyei at this critical [time]”, the statement adds.
Deng said members of the youth union considered it their duty to support the people of Abyei in determining their fate.
“As the youth leader in this country, it is incumbent upon me and my entire team and the youth of South Sudan to support my people of Abyei. The history will judge us. We don’t need to be on the wrong side of the history. I am urging the government to be bold enough and support the people of Abyei to carry out their referendum and decide their fate”, he said in the statement.
He urged the Abyei community to continue voting preparations, adding that the union was ready to lend its support in any way.
“I urge the people of Abyei not to miss this opportunity and vote this October 2013. We will support you and [be] ready to stand by your side in all circumstances that arise in the coming days”, he said.