Tuesday, October 29, 2013

African Union Condemns Separatist Attempt to Hold Referendum on Abyei Region of Sudan


African Union says Abyei unilateral referendum “illegal”

October 28, 2013 (JUBA) – The African Union Commission has “strongly” condemned a decision by the Ngok Dinka community to hold a unilateral “referendum” in Abyei region, saying it was “illegal”.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the commission chairperson said she was closely following the situation in the contested oil-producing region.

“She [Zuma] has learned, with deep concern, of the organization by the leadership of the Ngok Dinka community of a unilateral “referendum”, to determine the final status of Abyei”, it said in statement issued Monday.

Thousands of residents from the disputed region reportedly voted on Monday in a referendum that will determine the final status of Abyei, despite South Sudan’s insistence that it would not recognise the outcome of the long-awaited plebiscite.

Voting, officials say, ends on Tuesday with the results expected on 31 October. At least 65,000 people reportedly registered to take part in the exercise.

Monyluak Kuol, the chairman of the Abyei referendum commission told Reuters a unanimous vote was expected in favour of joining South Sudan.

"Our impression is the turnout is high. On Sunday, the first polling day, the main station recorded that 75 per cent had already cast their vote," said Kuol.

A senior official from Abyei region told Sudan Tribune that they would not to prevent the Arab Misseriya nomads from accessing the area, in the aftermath of a referendum in the oil-producing area.

"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 Ngok Dinka community recently declared their intention to conduct a referendum in the disputed region, after its members agreed during held a general conference in Abyei town last week.


But the AU commission chair, described as “unacceptable” and “irresponsible” any unilateral act in the region, which should have conducted its referendum simultaneously with that in South Sudan in 2011, as per the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

“This unilateral act is in violation of the relevant decisions of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), and can only heighten tension on the ground and further complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of existing commitments”, the chairperson warned.

She further called on those involved to put a halt to what she described as an “illegal” act, expressing concerns about the possible impact of the vote on not only relations between the two Sudans, but the region at large.

Such escalation could also put the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeepers in a very dangerous position, she stressed.

The United Nations has a 5,000-strong, mainly Ethiopian peacekeeping force deployed in the contested region to monitor tensions between the Arab nomads and residents in the area.

Meanwhile, the AU commission said it appreciated South Sudan’s rejection of any unilateral action in Abyei, and called on the international community, including the United Nations, to condemn the “ongoing unilateral and irresponsible action in Abyei, and to prevail upon those concerned to cease it immediately”.

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 over the region.

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.

At last week’s meeting held in Juba, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir agreed to expedite the establishment of Abyei administration council and police organs, and reaffirmed that the 2% share of Abyei areas in oil revenues, including arrears, will be paid to the Abyei administration.


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