South Sudan Calls On Religious Leaders to Hold Prayers Over Abyei

Photo: Isaac Billy/UN Photo
Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir,left, and South Sudanese president Salva Kiir. (file photo).

Wau — The co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, Luka Biong on Saturday called on religious leaders to hold prayers dedicated to bringing about a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Khartoum over the ownership of the contested Abyei region.

"The religious leaders, whether in churches or in mosques should hold prayers asking God to bring peace in Abyei and to the conflict over post secession issues with the government of Sudan," Biong told Sudan Tribune.

He also said religious leaders "have a big role to play in bringing peace to the two countries."

This is particularly significant given the impending Juba-Khartoum presidential summit, in which various unresolved issues, including the status of Abyei, within the frame of the proposal by the African Union Peace and Security Council roadmap will be discussed, he added.

Biong expressed optimism about the meeting bringing together the countries' leaders.

The Sudanese President, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir said he is ready to meet his South Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir "anytime" and "anywhere" as both leaders try to resolve outstanding issues between the two neighbours.

"There are challenges which require the government of the republic of South Sudan to approach all the African heads of state to share with them the plans and diplomatic efforts being exerted and also see their expected roles in resolving the conflict. But one thing is clear despite these challenges. The African heads of state will endorse the proposal because there is no way they reject it because it has already been endorsed by the ambassadors and foreign ministers representing them," said Biong.

He accused the Khartoum government of contradicting itself by campaigning against referral of the AU proposal to the UN Security Council (UNSC), yet it falls within the same road map earlier endorsed by Sudan as the basis for negotiations between the two parties.

The Sudanese government, Biong said, rejected the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) proposal, which backed an Abyei referendum and opposed the inclusion of the Misseriya tribe in its vote was rejected by Khartoum.

Khartoum, he reiterated, instead showed support for a previous proposal the mediation panel made in 2010, suggesting that the two areas be divided between the two parties.

The inclusion of the Misseriya ethnic group in a vote on Abyei's future is contentious as they are nomadic, spending only part of the year in the region and they are traditionally aligned with Khartoum.

The Abyei issue was in June 2008 referred to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to determine its boundaries. However, the ruling, which took place in the Hague only redefined Abyei's boundaries, but did not stipulate the region's fate.

On 14 December, the AUPSC decided in its 349th meeting in Addis Ababa to refer the endorsement of the AU proposal on the final status of Abyei area to its meeting at the level of the Heads of State. The next meeting of the Council is scheduled to be held on the margins of the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU in January 2013.

"This is the African solution which the government of Sudan is pushing for. The proposal was made by the mediators based on the African Union peace and Security Council which they have approved as the basis of negotiations for the parties. Instead of working for implementation they are turning around to oppose the same proposal they have endorsed. They cannot have it both ways: reject and accept," stressed the co-chair of AJOC.

Meanwhile, President Kiir, in a statement aired on the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV), said he remains committed to the full implementation of the agreement he signed in September with Sudanese counterpart to end the dispute over all outstanding issues with the north.

Kiir made these remarks at a public address after Thursday's meeting with the Ethiopian prime ministerr, Hailemariam Desalegn.

The two leaders discussed a number of issues, specifically focusing on the need to expedite the implementation of the cooperation and resume bilateral relations with neighboring Sudan.

"We have discussed a number of issues, especially the role the Ethiopian government can play in bringing peace and stability to our people and to end hostilities so that people can focus on development. On our side as the Government of South Sudan we have told him our full commitment to implementing the agreement," said Kiir.

The South Sudan leader also expressed willingness to meet Bashir "anytime and anywhere" to discuss how to amicably resolve the remaining outstanding issues.

"I have told the comrade Prime Minister my position. My position is very clear. I am committed to the full implementation of the cooperation agreement. I also made my position clear on the summit," said Kiir.

"I am ready to meet president Bashir anytime anywhere. If they tell me to meet him tomorrow, I will be the first to go to the venue. I have already invited him and this invitation remains open for him," he added.

The Ethiopian Premier also held talks with the Sudanese President, prior to his meeting with the South Sudan leader.

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