Home | News    Friday 4 March 2011

SPLM threatens to boycott negotiations with NCP over Abyei attacks

By Ngor Arol Garang

March 3, 2011 (AGOK) - The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls the government of South Sudan, threatened on Thursday to boycott the ongoing talks on the remaining outstanding issues in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), in the Ethiopia capital of Addis Ababa, over repeated attacks in the oil-producing region of Abyei.

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A SPLA soldier stands guard at a U.N. base in Abyei May 16, 2008 (Reuters)

The SPLM accused the Khartoum-controlled Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of conducting deliberate attacks to remove citizens from Abyei in order to settle members of the rival Misseriya tribe. The SAF have denied that they are in any way behind the attacks.

As part of the 2005 CPA, Abyei was supposed to hold a referendum to decide whether it would seceed to join South Sudan. The South’s plebiscite went ahead on schedule and the region is due to become independent in July following an overwhelming vote for independence.

Fighting in Abyei, has previously been associated with territorial rivalry between the two neighboring communities of the Dinka Ngok Chiefdom and the Arab-Nomadic cattle herding Misseriya. However, the issue has become highly politcised between the SPLM and Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP). The SPLM’s rejection of the NCP’s demand that the Misseriya be allowed to take part in the Abyei referendum was the main reason why the vote did not go ahead in January.

The SPLM claim that heavy artillery machine guns during the latest attacks, indicating that the attacks were supported by the SAF.

However, SAF spokesperson Khaled Al-Swarmi said the northern army did not take part in the fighting, whether with artillery, aviation or support to any party against the other.

He accused the Dinka Ngok-led Abyei Administration of being responsible of the current tension saying they did not implement security arrangement deal signed in Kadugli on 17 January.

According to Al-Swarmi the Abyei Administration had to withdraw additional SPLA police members from the region. The presence of the extra police led to the outbreak of friction with the Misseriya cattle herders, he said. Armed forces from both sides remain positioned outside of Abyei as stipulated in the agreement.

More than 70 people have reportedly been killed and several others wounded in clashes which began on Sunday 27 and continued on 28 February. They resumed on Wednesday 2 March, following no reports of attacks on Tuesday 1 March, 2011. There were no reports of clashes on Thursday.

The UN said on Thursday that more than 300 women and children have fled Abyei to escape the fighting. A diplomatic source has told Reuters that they had witnessed ‘the burial of 33 bodies of people caught up in the violence.’

Talks between the NCP and the SPLM, over the remaining issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and post-referendum issues, resumed on 1 March in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. As well as Abyei, the two parties are also expected to discuss the other transitional areas of South Kordofan and South Blue Nile. These areas like Abyei are geographically in north Sudan but were accorded popular consultations rather than a referendum on joining the South. Both the areas fought with the SPLM against Khartoum during the civil war.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Thursday, Edward Lino Wuor Abyei, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement‘s chairman in Abyei, said current attacks on the area could sabotage the ongoing talks.

"The National Congress launches attacks and thinks we can talk with them when they are killing innocent civilians. Which hearts and minds will do that? The SPLM will not accept anything unless they stop launching attacks in the area", warned Edward.

Charles Abyei Jok, the speaker of Abyei Legislative Council, in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune, on Thursday, also accused Sudan Armed Forces of conducting attacks with intentions to kill citizens of Abyei in order to take the oil and settle Misseriya.

"What is killing citizens of Abyei is oil and their land. The National Congress has realized that there is no alternative to take Abyei so resorted to armed confrontation with intention to wipe away the population. This is evident in these latest attacks. The Sudan Armed Forces launched by itself after using Misseriya to initiate on their behalf", said Charles.

"In these attacks, villages are burned and civilians are being killed. This is clear intention to clear the area. The National Congress Party through the regular army has embarked on ethnic cleansing strategy to take and control Abyei", Charles claimed.

Chol Deng Alaak, chairman of the Abyei referendum Forum in another interview with Sudan Tribune in Juba, said: "Talks between the SPLM and the National Congress Party on post referendum issues and Abyei resumed on Tuesday after the government troops staged deadliest attacks in the area."

Deng Abiem, a member the State Legislative Assembly in Warrap representing Abyei, said the SPLM should not go ahead with discussions, while the violence continues.

"There is no reason to go ahead while the innocent civilians are being butchered. Where is the international community here? Why is the international community repeatedly allowing the National Congress Party to kill innocent civilians in Abyei?"

"Why are the United States of America and the United Nations keeping quiet on Abyei? Where are those who appended their signatures on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement? Why are the world leaders allowing the peace they supported to be violated at their watch", asked Abiem.

Miyen Alor Kuol, another SPLM figure from Abyei said that talks had not got off to a good start as the NCP delegation maintained their earlier position to include Messiriya in the administration of Abyei.

The long-serving member of the SPLM said his party would definitely reject any attempt to include Messiriya in the area. "It is clear that our delegation will not accept any attempt to include Misseriya in the area whatsoever. So, it is possible these talks on Abyei will not go ahead to produce substantial and contending results", said Kuol.

The deputy chief administrator of Abyei, Rahman Abdul Rahman, who is from the Misseriya said that the town is now relatively calm with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrolling the town and the surrounding area with local police and Joint Integrated Units, consisting of both SPLA and SAF troops.

"The situation today is relatively calm. There were no clashes today. UNMIS and the joint police and JIUS will conduct ultimate patrols in and around the town. We have also resolved it to engage the higher authorities", especially the presidency, Rahma told Sudan Tribune in a telephone interview.

On Thursday the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) issued a statement announcing it was reinforcing its military capacity in Abyei:

"In reaction to the recent clashes north of Abyei town and to prevent an escalation in violence, UNMIS has started to enhance its presence in this location by reinforcing its current capacity of 4 companies with an additional company. The strengthened deployment will intensify the frequency of both patrols throughout the Abyei Administered Area to provide a continuous rolling presence, as well as foot patrols within Abyei town itself to increase visibility of UNMIS troops while carrying out the mission’s mandated duties."

On Wednesday the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for the Sudan Haile Menkerios said that he deplored the clashes in Abyei. A statement from his office said that the fighting constituted a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the Kadugli Agreements of 13 and 17 January 2011.

Menkerios urges the NCP and SPLM to: ‘recommit themselves to the full implementation of the Agreements, including the establishment of the agreed High-Level Implementation Committee and its effective functioning as a mechanism to contain such incidents and prevent their recurrence. UNMIS stands ready to assist the parties in this endeavor. The SRSG further urges the two parties to expedite agreement on the settlement of the Abyei issue as promised by the Presidency last month.’