28 October 2013

Sudan: Abyei Community Say Referendum Will Not Deny Misseriya Access

Photo: UN Photo/Tim McKulka
Residents of Abyei march to celebrate the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Juba — Leaders from Abyei region said they would not to prevent the Arab Misseriya nomads from accessing the area, in the aftermath of a referendum in the oil-producing area, later this month.

"This referendum does not affect the other arrangements. It does not cancel what has been agreed upon in the 2012 September 21 proposal and Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), said Luka Biong Deng, the spokesperson for Abyei high referendum committee.

"It is to make clear the final status", he added.

The official, in an interview with Sudan Tribune, downplayed reports that neighboring Sudan was allegedly massing troops in the northern parts of the disputed area, with plans to disrupt the planned vote.

Edward Lino, head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the area says the vote was an opportunity his people could not miss because the month was picked and approved by the African Union that it would be "unwise" to keep waiting for the outcomes of the indefinite discussions.

"This is the opportunity which cannot be missed. The month of October was the work of the African Union and [it would] be unwise to keep waiting for the outcomes of the indefinite discussions. The government of Sudan is determined to keep on dragging with these endless discussions. They are not ready to accept the formation of the referendum commission as a matter of urgency so that the dispute is settled once and for all", said Lino

They want the area to remain in that state so that they continue to benefit from the resources extracted from the area, he stressed.

A referendum on Abyei was due to take place at the same time as the South Sudanese vote for independence in 2011, but was postponed due to disagreements over who was eligible to participate.

While Juba maintains that only the Ngok Dinka, as permanent residents of the area, be allowed to participate, Khartoum insists that the Misseriya be allowed to take part in the referendum to decide whether the area will join Sudan or South Sudan.

Last year, the AU mediation team backed South Sudan's position, proposing to hold a referendum in Abyei this October in a bid to break the deadlock.

However, Sudan rejected the proposal, saying it ignored that the eligibility of the Misseriya and that a public administration and institutions must be established first before any vote can take place.

Arop Madut Arop, a lawmaker representing the area in the national assembly said his people would never accept to be part of Sudan "even if the heaven changes and turns out to be the earth".

"Our people are tired of sufferings in the hands of the north [Sudan]", Arop told Sudan Tribune, detailing a series of atrocities allegedly committed by the Sudanese government in the disputed region.

Can you image that the government of Sudan has never compensated those its forces killed and [for] the properties they destroyed twice"? Arop asked.

The Ngok Dinka community have declared their intention to conduct a referendum on 31 October after its members held a general conference in Abyei town last week.

But the AUPSC, the United States government and the UNSC have warned against unilateral action, saying the move could inflame tribal tensions in the already volatile area.

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