Voice of America (Washington, DC)

21 October 2013

East Africa: South Sudan and Sudanese Leaders to Meet

Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka
Residents of Abyei celebrate the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruling on the boundaries of the Abyei Area.

Leaders of Sudan and South Sudan plan to meet in South Sudan's capital, Juba, Tuesday, to help resolve tensions between the two neighboring countries, according to a senior Sudanese ruling party official.

Rabie Abdelati Obeid, a prominent member of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP), says the two leaders will work to resolve differences between the two nations surrounding the referendum of the disputed oil-rich Abyei region.

He says Sudan's President Bashir, who will be accompanied by cabinet ministers, was officially invited by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir.

"The two presidents will discuss the matrix designed to implement the cooperation agreement of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south including the transportation [and] refining of oil and how to share the revenue [from it]," said Obeid. "They will also discuss commercial agreements between the two countries, to guarantee the movement of people."

Sudan and South Sudan have disagreed over the status of Abyei since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that effectively ended over 20 years of civil war in the once-unified Sudan.

It provided for a referendum originally scheduled for January 2011 to determine Abyei's future.

South Sudan backs a vote, though the government in Khartoum does not. It says the Misseriya pastoralists would not be eligible to take part. The nomads pass through the disputed territory on their way to watering and grazing grounds for their cattle.

Obeid said only negotiations between the leaders could resolve the differences between the two nations. He argued that the government in Sudan as well as the African Union will not support a unilateral decision by South Sudan to hold a referendum.

"The people of Abyei should decide [their] status, not the leaders of Dinka Ngok or leaders of Misseriya because this is the right of the people," said Obeid, "It is the responsibility of the two countries to arrange and to make the environment suitable. I think this is to be discussed between the two presidents either to conduct the referendum in a healthy environment or to agree on any other settlement or resolution."

He also said the two countries have not yet reached an agreement to create the enabling stable environment necessary for the referendum.

"I think the two presidents will discuss how to agree upon the final situation of Abyei by completing the steps of referendum so [it] could be carried out in a healthy environment [that] enables the people of Abyei to decide," said Obeid.

Obeid also said the two countries appear to have come to the conclusion that negotiations and cooperation could help resolve tensions and sharp differences between them.

"War will not settle the problem," said Obeig. "The only way is to agree upon steps, upon resolution so as to reach to a final Abyei [solution]."

Khartoum and Juba have often accused the other of supporting armed groups against their governments. Obeid said Sudan has decided not to support any in South Sudan.

"Our government in the north now refrains accommodating or supporting any rebels against the government of the South," said Obeid. "Also our government is asking repeatedly the government of the South to disengage and stop supporting soldiers [who] are part of the Sudan People Liberation Army."

South Sudan denies accusations that it supports armed groups against the government in Khartoum.

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InFocus

Sudan: Abyei to Hold Referendum Despite Warnings

Residents of Abyei celebrate the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, ruling on the boundaries of the Abyei Area.

Community leaders say they will go ahead with the referendum to determine the future of Abyei, despite warnings from the international community about the possibility of violence. Read more »