9 November 2012

Sudan: Juba Concedes Position of Abyei Legislative Council Speaker to Sudan

Photo: Tim McKulka/ UN Photo
Troops patrol in Abyei area (file photo).

Juba — South Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit Friday gave the go-ahead for the formation of Abyei interim administration where a Misseriya could be appointed as speaker of the region's assembly.

In accordance with an agreement on Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area signed on 20 June 2011 following the seizure of Abyei by the Sudanese army, Juba will appoint the Chief Administrator, while Khartoum will slect the Speaker of the legislative assembly.

In its latest decisions, the African Union Peace and Security Council gave the two parties a delay of six weeks to reach an agreement over Abyei issue based on a proposal prepared by the mediation to hold the referendum in October 2013. The ministerial meeting also demanded to form the interim administration.

Jubain the past blocked the process asking Khartoum to appoint a Ngok Dinka member of the National Congress Party (NCP) on the position of the speaker, but the Sudanese presidency rejected such request.

Luka Biong Deng, Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee confirmed on Friday that President Salva Kiir issued administrative directives authorising the formation of joint interim administration.

Luka Biong speaks at a press conference as Edward Lino pays attention to his remarks, in Juba, South Sudan, 15 May 2012 (ST)

Biong, who is a native of the area, said that allowing Sudan to appoint the leader of the key institution was "painful" but added that it will put South Sudan "on high moral ground" and "send a clear message to our commitment to comply with the resolution of the African Union Peace and Security Council".

He furthercalled on the people of Abyei "accept and swallow this bitter pill" but added that it was "just an interim arrangement to facilitate conduct of the referendum which is our strategic objective. We need to seal off delaying tactics of the government of Khartoum", Biong told Sudan Tribune in an interview on Friday.

The Abyei Area Legislative Council will be composed of 20 members; 12 nominated by the government of South Sudan and 8 members by the government of Sudan.

"The initial arrangement was that the government of South Sudan nominate the speaker of the council and the government of Sudan nominate the deputy . Adding now what is changed that "Sudan will nominate speaker of the council and the South will nominate the deputy"

Biong commended President Kiir for giving "clear administrative directives" to immediately form the joint administration, pointing out that the area would continue to be administered by an executive council representing the two heads of state.

"The executive council will be composed of a chief administrator, a nominee of the SPLM and the deputy as nominee of the NCP. There will be five heads of departments. Three heads of department will be nominees of the government of South Sudan and the two will be nominated by the government in the north," Biong said.

The Council will make decisions by consensus and has to work in a spirit of partnership and fellowship in order to uphold the purpose for which it is formed, he added.

The tasks of the Council include overseeing the security and stability in the area and to propose projects to raise the standard of living of the population of the Abyei area, including urbanization and development. It is also charged with the establishment of Abyei Fund for resettlement, reconstruction and development to implement relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction programmes in the area.

The members of this administration who will be appointed in the coming days will be tasked to manage the return of Abyei displaced population reportedly returning to the area from areas in Sudan and South Sudan after fleeing the conflict that erupted in May 2011.

BASHIR IS WELCOME IN JUBA

Biong said that he supports the upcoming visit of the Sudanese president Bashir to Juba describing it as "opportunity" for two heads of state to reach a consensus on the remaining outstanding issues.

"The visit of Bashir would be an opportunity to show his seriousness and commitment to resolving the outstanding issues," he said.

The official further added that he thinks the two presidents will only discus implementation related matters on Abyei because the African Union High Implementation Panel proposal has already provided a clear roadmap.

"I think discussions about Abyei would be more of implementation because African Union High Level implementation Panel proposal is very clear. If Bashir reject it, the Security Council of the United Nations will endorse it and will implement under chapter seven", he explained.

However, in a brief speech delivered in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, President Omer Al-Bashir asserted that Abyei is a Sudanese territory and will remain.

He went to repeat the claims of Misseriya leaders that Abyei is their region and they hosted the Ngok Dinka in the past.

He said that in accordance with the peace agreement of 2005, Abyei geographically "belongs to the Sudan and will remain", citing that 1956 borderline is the criteria on this respect.

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