October 31, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The Sudanese government downplayed the announcement on the results of the unilaterally-held referendum in the disputed border region of Abyei by the pro-South Sudan Ngok Dinka tribes calling it an "outcast".
- Ethnic group Ngok Dinka people celebrate with a South Sudanese flag in Juba on October 31, 2013, the results of an unofficial referendum of residents of contested region Abyei to decide if it lies in Sudan or South Sudan (WAAKHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
The outcome of the three day vote showed a near unanimous desire in favor of Abyei joining South Sudan.
But plans for the symbolic vote was rejected by Khartoum and Juba as well as the African Union (AU) amid concerns that the dispute will unravel the recent gains made in relations between the neighboring countries.
Abyei was scheduled to hold a referendum with that of South Sudan in January 2011 but was suspended because of disagreements between the two countries over who was eligible to participate in the vote.
In a bid to resolve the impasse, the AU mediation team proposed last year holding a referendum in Abyei this October, stipulating that only the Ngok Dinka permanently residing in the area would be allowed to take part in the plebiscite.
However, Sudan swiftly rejected the proposal, saying it ignored the eligibility of the nomadic Arab Misseriya tribesmen and argued that local government institutions must be established first before any vote can take place.
The co-chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) for the Sudanese side, Al-Khair Al-Faheem met today with 2nd Vice President al-Haj Adam Youssef to discuss the situation in the area following the unilateral referendum.
Al-Faheem told reporters afterwards that the vote carries little value as the Misseriya and even the Ngok Dinka rejected it and noted decisions of the AU and the United Nations Security Council rejecting unilateral measures in Abyei.
He hailed the position of Juba and the "rational" members of the Ngok Dinka and urged the Misseriya to exercise self restraint and underscored Khartoum’s commitment to implementing accords it signed.
The US-based Enough project issued a report on Friday urging Washington and the AU to take immediate action to help determine Abyei’s final status.
"The people of Abyei’s dreams have been deferred for too long. Unless the African Union makes it clear that it is willing to stand behind President [AU chief mediator] Mbeki’s proposal, violence could once again seize the region" Akshaya Kumar, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst, and co-author of the report said.
Timothy May, Enough Project Field Researcher, and co-author of the report noted that Khartoum "already owes both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya 2% of the region’s oil revenues since 2005".
"While they might not agree on the area’s final status, both groups can work together to push Khartoum to turn over those funds, which could help develop their communities" May said.
John Prendergast, Enough Project Co-Founder, warned that the UN peacekeepers deployed in Abyei "cannot stay forever" adding that international community must use this moment to support a lasting resolution."