5 February 2013

South Sudan: 'No Plan' for Abyei Area to Be Administered By UN - South Sudan

Juba — South Sudan does not have plans to allow the United Nations to administer the fertile oil-producing border region of Abyei, which is also claimed by the government of neighbouring Sudan, a senior official said Tuesday.

"We are looking for how the leadership of the traditional authority should be strengthened, so we do not have plans to allow the area to be administered by the United Nations even if we cannot reach a consensus on the final status", Luka Biong Deng, a representative of South Sudan in the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee said.

The status of Abyei was scheduled to have been resolved in a referendum over two years ago but differences between Juba and Khartoum over who was legible to vote caused it to be delayed. The situation was further complicated when the Sudanese army forcibly took control the area in May 2011 ahead of South Sudan's independence.

Since then a 4,000-strong UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in the area, however, establishing a civilian administration in the region has proved painfully slow.

Abyei community leaders told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that they were appealing for external intervention over the deadlock to settle the final status of the region.

Under the 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan's secession, only those "resident" in Abyei were permitted to take part in the vote. The Southern-aligned Dinka Ngok tribe are the dominant population of the area but Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has insisted that the Misseriya nomads who enter the area with their cattle for part of the year also be allowed to vote.

Dinka Ngok community leaders have urged the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to take aggressive measures to end the long-running dispute between the two sides.

"Time has come for the UN Security Council to end diplomacy and take aggressive measures, take [a] serious and unified decision, take firm and strong action against the government of Sudan. The National Congress Party is just wasting people's time and resources. It wants us to engage in indefinite negotiations", John Ajang, an official with South Sudan's ruling party (SPLM), said in Abyei on Tuesday.

Ajang urged the 15-member council of the African Union (AU) to forge an understanding and unify its determination to take action over what would be "a dangerous attempt to undermine the authority and credibility of the security council if it fails to live by its communiqué, giving [a] tight timeframe during which the two sides should resolve their differences".

The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, has recommended that should the two sides fail to come to a political agreement over the status of Abyei, a referendum should be held in October involving those resident in the area.

Should such a vote go ahead, the Dinka Ngok would be expected to vote for Abyei to be transferred into South Sudan, from where it was moved by the British in 1905.

Ajang said that the AUPSC should act on the report by Mbeki's AUHIP if the two sides fail to agree on the status of Abyei.

The chairperson of the SPLM's branch office in Abyei, Edward Lino, told Sudan Tribune that the NCP government in Khartoum was not interested in settling the final status of the area and that it was time for the international community to "make a final decision".

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