Juba — South Sudan on Saturday reiterated its position against the alleged proposal by the government of neighbouring Sudan, seeking the division of the contested region of Abyei.
"The interest of the Sudanese government in Abyei have always been clear to us. We know what they want. They are only interested in resources. Their interest is oil. They do not have any genuine claim in the area. They have always failed to proof," Michael Makuei Lueth, a member of South Sudanese delegation at the talks said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
Abyei is a contested region, which was due for a referendum in January 2011 to allow residents to determine whether the area would remain in Sudan or become part of South Sudan.
However, the two sides disagree on with groups have legitimate claims to be considered residents. For this reason and the inability for the Khartoum and Juba to set up the body to implement the vote.
Armed conflict in broke out in the region in May 2011 when 5,000 SAF troops reportedly took control of the region after three days of conflict after an ambush by South Sudanese troops, displacing 100,000 people. To stabilise the security situation the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was deployed.
Progress has been made with both Juba and Khartoum recently agreeing to withdraw its troops. However, Juba alleges that clandestine SAF troops remain in the region.
Lueth, who is the country's minister of parliamentary affairs, is currently a leading member of the negotiating team on behalf of the government of South Sudan. He said they have rejected the proposal by the Sudanese delegation seeking the division of Abyei in the latest round of negotiations.
"We rejected demands by the Sudanese delegation to divide Abyei because we do not see the reason. Their proposal was not justifiable. It lack basis", said Lueth.
He explained that the country's leadership is seeking a final settlement to the dispute, for which there are only two logical resolutions. The first being a referendum, "so that the citizens of Abyei decide their own destiny," and the second is that Sudan "transfer the area from Kordofan [Sudan] to Bahr el Ghazal [South Sudan] region."
Arop Madut Arop, member of parliament representing Abyei in the National Legislative Assembly also objected to Khartoum's proposal to divide Abyei, accusing the international community of "let[-ting] down" South Sudan in the implementation of the Abyei Protocol as stipulated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The people of Abyei area were to vote in a January 2011 referendum to decide their destiny but the international community failed to impose the requisite pressure on Khartoum to carry it out, according to Arop.
Arop accused Sudan's ruling National Congress Party of "deliberately delaying the passage of the Abyei referendum act" by delaying the nomination of members of the referendum commission and insisting on the inclusion of the traditionally Khartoum-aligned Misseriya ethnic group.
As a nomadic group spending part of the year in Abyei the right of the Misseriya to be involved in determining the future of the region is a matter of contention. The international community's failure to intervene in this "let down our people'" according to Arop.