South Sudan: African Union Supports Abyei Referendum in 2013 but Gives Six Weeks for a Deal

Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo
Aftermath of clashes in Abyei.

Khartoum — The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) announced on Thursday it support to the organization of a referendum in Abyei next year, but gave the parties six weeks to reach a compromise over the issue.

The Council met on 24 October to discuss the progress made by Sudan and South Sudan after the signing of a cooperation agreement including oil exportation, trade and security arrangements.

However Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir failed to reach a deal on Abyei and five areas on the common border claimed by the two parties.

The mediation just before the meeting handed a proposal to the two head of states saying a referendum should be held in October 2013 without the participation of the Misseriya nomads.

Juba accepted the proposal as it copes with its demand and Khartoum rejected it reiterating its commitment to a previous deal the mediation had proposed in November 2010 calling to divide the region if they fail to agree on the issue.

The AUPSC requested in a communiqué released on Thursday Khartoum and Juba to discuss Abyei issue on the basis of the recent proposal the mediation made, and decided to give them six weeks from the date of the adoption of the communiqué to strike a deal.

It further demanded the African mediation team led by the chief mediator Thabo Mbeki to " report to it on the results of this engagement, immediately upon the expiration of the six-week period mentioned above".

The council went further to say that in case they fail to agree on the issue during the six week, "Council will endorse the 21 September 2012 Proposal as final and binding, and would seek the endorsement by the UN Security Council of the same."

In Khartoum, the official media did not report the decision or mention it.

However the official news agency, SUNA, reported on Wednesday that First Vice President Ali Osman Taha held a meeting with Misseriya tribal leaders.

Following the meeting, Al-Khair Al-Fahim, co-chair of Abyei steering committee told reporters that the Misseriya's vision fully concurs with the government's position over the need of a solution ensuring peaceful coexistence and reconciliation with the Ngok Dinka.

He further said the South Sudanese government "wants a referendum in line with its desires over the eligibility of voters, the formation of the referendum commission and the law organising the process."

He reiterated that the referendum is not a good solution because its outcomes will lead to create discontent from a side or another.

He further added they have no idea about the Russian proposal to support Abyei's partition on the level of the UN Security Council.

Mikhail Margelov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for cooperation with African countries. Met with the Sudanese president on 6 October where he discussed Khartoum's position over Abyei with him.

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InFocus

AU Extends Sudans' Peace Talks Over Abyei

The African Union has given Sudan and South Sudan a further six weeks to reach a deal over the disputed region and border areas. Read more »