Wau — South Sudan on Sunday accepted a peace proposal by the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) which has been mediating talks between the two former warring parties to break deadlock over a number of issues including contested region of Abyei.
The proposition, which suggests to hold a referendum in October 2013, supports the idea backed by South Sudan that only the dominant Ngok Dinka and the resident of Misseriya tribe can participate in this vote giving assurance that the region can join easily the new state of South Sudan.
However, the proposal has also been received with mixed reactions from some of the government officials and local people. Though high ranking and key influential decision making government officials approved the deal, the middle ranking officials appear discontented, indicating lack of coordination and common understanding on the issue.
Speaking in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday, Luka Biong Deng, Co Chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) said the government of the Republic of South Sudan accepted the proposal put forward by the mediating team without placing any precondition for the deal.
Deng explained that, according to the proposal, Abyei becomes a state with special status in the event the referendum determines that it remains in Sudan or becomes part of the Republic of South Sudan. He downplayed voices arguing that the proposal gives away "too much" of Abyei resources to the Government of Sudan.
"I think justice has been done. The proposal clearly recognizes the long suffering of the people of Abyei. It recognizes their voting right as predominant residents. I think this proposal is okay," Deng told Sudan Tribune by telephone from Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday.
He explained that the most important thing is that the proposal gives 30% of oil produced in the area to Abyei and defines criteria for qualifying other Sudanese residing in Abyei to vote at the referendum as those with permanent settlements and who have must lived in the area for period not less than three years before the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA°.
The official further added the proposal gives 50% to the national government and 20% to adjacent localities of Southern Kordofan State of Sudan to fund Common Economic Development Corporation which shall be created and established by the two parties with assistance from members of the African Union and the international community.
"The objective of this body is to speed up delivery of basic services in the adjoining areas of Southern Kordofan. These funds would support economic development of permanent water points for livestock, improved pasture routes and support agricultural projects. The main reason for doing this is to encourage nomadic communities turn to the other living activities instead of relying on seasonal migratory route to Abyei and other states in the republic of South Sudan," he explained.
In Khartoum, Sudanese official avoided to speak about the proposition of the African mediation as the government expects that the Misseriya would reject it.
Some newspapers however put out that that the mediations suggests to divide the region between the two communities of Ngok Dinka and Misseriya.
Informed sources expect that talks in Addis at this stage focus on the security issues in order to allow the exportation of South Sudanese oil but also to enable the other process with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).
Many in Khartoum believe that the government needs to prepare the Misseriya leaders to accept such idea before to engage in such process.
While Deng expressed satisfaction with the proposal, Juac Agok, a Deputy Chairperson of South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation in Area appears sceptical over whether a permanent peace would be realised in the area if no neutral forces are deployed to drive out members of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) he said continue to illegally remain in the area.
"I have not seen the proposal. I just heard it. I am yet to receive it but it is all the same. The conduct of successful referendum can only be feasible if Sudan armed forces which continue to illegally remain in the area are driven out of Abyei by a neutral force," Agok said on Sunday.
The second top of official in the party hierarchy in the area, said it is high time to members of the international community to live up to international values and norms including commitment to holding governments and states responsible for their acts.
"The government (of Sudan) is used to dishonouring agreements because it does not feel the pressure being exerted by the international community and because there are no actions which accompany their resolutions," he said.
"How many times and how many agreements did the Sudanese government violate and no action has been taken by the international community," Agok asked.
He recommends that referendum in the area be conducted by the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA) if the international community was really serious on the issue.
Meanwhile , in a letter seen by Sudan Tribune addressed to South Sudan President Salva Kiir by the Thambo Mbeki, Chair of the African Union High Implementation Panel recommended a win-win solution in order to resolve the dispute of the area.
Mbeki observed that conduct of the Abyei referendum would mean one party will win the area and the other will lose, stressing that this approach will hamper the establishment of durable peace and peaceful coexistence between two viable states, the main goal of the CPA.
He stressed that the best approach would be to work for a negotiated win-win outcome in order not to undermine the desire for Abyei to be a bridge between the two countries and their people.
"The outcome of Abyei referendum will mean that one side has won and the other has lost. This is unfortunate reality for the two for reasons. One of these is that it has the potential to mitigate against reconciliation between Dinka Ngok and the Missiriya and therefore undermine their capacity to serve as a bridge of friendship and friendly cooperation amongst the people of the two republics. The second is that it might create a negative climate with regard to realization of fundamental objective to which both republics are committed, of ensuring that the work together in a conditions of friendship to achieve mutual viability," the letter reads in part