South Sudan Envoy Amum Visits West Africa Ahead of Abyei Vote At the AU

Wau — A South Sudanese Presidential Special envoy met with the Nigerian President on Wednesday as South Sudan continues its diplomatic efforts to persuade African nations to vote in favour of the African Union mediation's latest proposal on the disputed territory of Abyei later this month.

The meeting of between Pa'gan Amum and President Goodluck Jonathan also covered other issues regarding relations between South Sudan and Sudan, including border demarcation and the prospect of resuming oil production.

Amum in his role as South Sudan's Special Envoy to West Africa, delivered a letter from President Salva Kiir to President Jonathan, who welcomed the presidential delegation and requested to meet with his South Sudan counterpart in Addis Ababa during the upcoming AU summit.

The Nigerian President also expressed readiness to improve bilateral relations with South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011 as part of a 2005 peace deal.

Amum, who is South Sudan's lead negotiator with Sudan, as well as the Secretary General of the young nation's ruling party - the SPLM - is on a tour of West African countries to try and persuade them to vote for the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel's proposal regarding the oil-rich Abyei area.

Under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki, the former South African President, the AUHIP has proposed that a referendum be held in October for those resident in the area. Agreeing on who is allowed to vote delayed the referendum from its original date in January 2011.

The AUHIP "proposal defines the term "residents" as (a) the members of the Ngok Dinka community and (b) other Sudanese who are residing in the area, meaning those Sudanese who have a "permanent abode" in Abyei."

South Sudan has recently accused Sudan of trying to settle members of the Misseriya tribe - a northern Arab nomadic group - in the north of the area. Traditionally, the Misseriya enter the fertile region for part of the year with their cattle, but South Sudan insists that it is the Dinka Ngok, who live in Abyei all year round, who should decide the future of the area.

The area has been administered by the north since it was transferred there during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium in 1905.

As part of the proposal: "After the referendum, revenue from Abyei's oil resources will be divided accordingly: (a) 30% for Abyei; (b) 20% for adjoining localities in South Kordofan; and (c) 50% for the national government of the country in which Abyei is located after the referendum. After five years, the 20% allocation for South Kordofan will revert to the national government of the country in which Abyei is located."

Sudan has rejected the AUHIP proposal, which will be voted on by the African Union's Peace and Security Council at a summit scheduled for the end of January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Both countries have been conducting high-level diplomatic visits to try and gain support on the Abyei issue ahead of the AU vote.

SECURITY COUNCIL REFERRAL

South Sudan is also advocating that the issue of Abyei be referred to the Security Council of the United Nations, saying it has exhausted all efforts, to reach a bilateral agreement based on September proposal by the AUHIP.

"My reading is that Sudan is not interested in settling the final status of Abyei, as well as contested and claimed areas. Because they have insistently been making unjustifiably demands", Edward Lino, Chair of South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) for Abyei has said in a televised statement.

Lino accused Sudan of "wasting time" by going around Africa seeking support to contain discussions over the area, while refusing to comply with the AUHIP proposal to resolve the dispute.

"We have not made any progress in the last round of talks. The government of Sudan decided to add additional demand. They have now come up with new proposal seeking equal representation in the Abyei council. This shows that they are not interested in settling the final status of Abyei. They are trying to waste time. They do not want the issue to be resolved and they want it not to be referred to the security council of the United Nations" he said.

"This is the trick they are playing so that they continue to exploit resources of the area while our people continue to suffer as if they do not have a place they call their home", Lino said in a statement broadcast by South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Wednesday.

He explained that the struggle of Dinka Ngok people of Abyei seeking to return to the south dates back to period before the first civil war broke out in the town of Torit in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria State in 1955.

"The struggle of our people did not just begin with the rebellion which culminated to the formation of SPLA/M in 1983. It's struggle which started long before that. It begun before first the civil war broke out in Torit in 1955. Our people we were already in the bush when the southern forces mutinied in Torit", he explained.

He said Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir has sent out his emissaries to different African countries to mobilise support against referral of the dispute over the area to Security Council.

"Bashir has tactically decided to mobilise support of the African leaders against referral of the proposal to the Security Council. His emissaries are all over trying to seek support. He is trying to appear as if he is for peaceful resolution while he is actually doing the contrary."

In the last week of 2011 and early January, Juba accused the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of annexing territories belonging to South Sudan. Khartoum has denied the attacks and claims it only targets Sudanese rebel, which it claims are backed by Juba.

"You have seen recent military activities in which Sudan armed forces launched fierce attacks in Kiir adem which you all know is an area inside republic of South Sudan in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. They carried attack in areas under Raja County in Western Bahr el Ghazal State. They also kidnapped farmers on their farms in Renk, Upper Nile state. All these are clear act of aggression yet Bashir continue to lie that he wants peace", said Lino

The official said the government of Sudan does not want peaceful settlement, but it wants to tactically pull around the international community to avoid conducting the referendum.

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