Home | News    Wednesday 13 October 2010

North-South talks over Abyei referendum fail, new round scheduled

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By Muhammad Osman

October 12, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – Nine days of U.S.-mediated talks between north and south Sudan over a stalled referendum vote due in January 2011 on the future of the oil rich area Abyei have failed to reach an agreement, stoking fears that the vote could now be at risk of total collapse.

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woman displaced by fighting in Abyei in southern Sudan waits for assistance in the village of Agok May 21, 2008. (Reuters)

The obituary of the marathon talks, which took place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, was announced Tuesday in a joint statement issued by the negotiating parties and the US mediation team headed by the US Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration.

The statement said that despite serious efforts the two sides "did not succeed in reaching an agreement on the eligibility criteria for voters" in Abyei referendum.

Meanwhile, officials from the north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls the south, have traded blame for the failure of the talks, accusing each other of rejecting proposals put forward by the mediation team to resolve the key dispute over the eligibility to vote in Abyei referendum.

Another round of talks has been scheduled to take place between October 27 and November 5 in Addis Ababa, according to multiple sources who spoke to Sudan Tribune.

The head of the NCP’s negotiating delegation in Addis Ababa talks, Presidential adviser Salah Gosh, told Sudan Tribune that the next round of talks will be attended by first vice-president and GOSS president Salva Kiir and vice president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha.

Furthermore, Sudan Tribune has learned from a source privy to the talks that the next round will be moderated by the African Union’s (AU) High-Level Panel on Sudan, headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Abyei is an area of oil-production and tribal overlapping between the indigenous south Sudanese tribe of Dinka Njok and the Arab nomadic tribe of Missireiya, which is associated with north Sudan.

Citizens of Abyei should vote on whether to join the north or the semi-autonomous south Sudan in the event of the latter’s widely-expected full independence in another referendum scheduled to take place simultaneously with that of Abyei in January 2011.

The two plebiscites are key planks of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which in 2005 ended decades of civil war between the mainly Christian south Sudan and the Arab, Muslim-dominated north.

However, north and south Sudan have been deadlocked over whether members of Al-Misiriyyah, who only traverses the borders into Abyei on seasonal basis to graze their cattle, should be eligible to vote in the referendum.

A referendum commission for Abyei is yet to be composed.

Disagreements over the area’s boundaries led the NCP and the SPLM to refer the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which ruled to redraw the boundaries of Abyei, ceding key oilfields to north Sudan but gave the South most of the land including Abyei town which has huge areas of fertile land and one significant oilfield.

However, the borders have yet to be demarcated to comply with the court’s verdict because of threats leveled by the cattle-herding Missireiya tribe.

The SPLM has interpreted the ruling as meaning that Missireiya have no right to vote in areas assigned by the PCA to the Dinka Ngok.

Pagan Amum, the SPLM’s secretary-general and head of the south’s negotiating delegation, has held the NCP responsible for the failure of the talks and warned that the current disagreement could put an end to peace in Sudan.

"These talks have failed to reach any agreement, unfortunately, despite the hard work exerted by the mediator, Scott Gration with his team," he said.

According to Amum, the talks “basically failed because the NCP came with a fresh new claim that Abyei belonged to the north and to Missireiya people, and that (the latter) must vote in the referendum.”

“This round has failed, and the effort of General Scott Gration did not succeed to remove the obstacles the National Congress has placed. Despite a lot of incentives he has put on the table,” Amum said.

Amum warned that failure to resolve Abyei dispute “could lead to an end of the peace process itself and the peace may unravel in the Sudan.”

On the other hand, the NCP’s Salah Gosh told reporters at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa yesterday that the talks failed because the SPLM refused to agree to the mediators’ proposals on the issue of voters’ eligibility.

"Our brothers in the SPLM did not accept the proposal of the mediators," Gosh said.

Asked whether the tight timeframe could allow the referendum to go ahead as planned, Gosh said it would still be possible to hold the referndum as planned if the disputed issues are thrashed out.

However, he later said that the two partners could agree to hold the referendum anytime up to April 2011, the end of the CPA’s timetable. Gosh stressed that the two sides must work to find a solution within the CPA’s timeframe.

According to Sudn Tribune’s sources, the American mediators proposed that the right to vote should be granted to those who lived in Abyei for 200 days during each of the last three years.

Sudan Tribune has also learned that the two sides have contemplated the possibility of scrapping the referendum in favor of a negotiated settlement to the dispute.

This proposal, say Sudan Tribune’s sources, was first put forward by the SPLM which later rejected it, citing lack of guarantees that the NCP would hold up its end of the deal.

Meanwhile, north Sudan’s Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha on Tuesday flew to Juba, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of south Sudan, and held a meeting with the region’s president Salva Kiir.

Salah Gosh told reporters that Taha’s meeting with Kiir aimed at creating a roadmap for the next round of talks in Addis Ababa.

Last Monday, the Sudanese Vice president Ali Osman Taha expressed doubt that the Abyei referendum can be held on time saying many issues need to be resolved first.

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 13 October 2010 02:58, by Mel mosa

    It is waste of time. people blind to see the trust. The NCP has nothing to claim rather than cause continue conflict in Sudan because it is the only way for NCP to keep Sudanese busy and looting Sudan resources. Gration is the one exacerbated the Abyei problem while it was solved by CPA and PCA. If there is losse of lives, blame goes to Gration because of his fake proposal.

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    • 14 October 2010 13:41, by Ajokbil

      Mel
      I abslutely agree with you.
      Abyei problem was long time ago being solved by CPA or PCA.
      so here I failed to understand what this bribe Kwaja ( Gration) is doing with leaders in Ethiopia?

      Abyei people are going to separate from North and that is it.

      repondre message

  • 13 October 2010 03:11, by Kuer

    This is totally getting ridiculous! Another renegotiation of Abyei? What in heaven sake do these people (arab-muslims of NCP) want? Even their so-called Mohammed would not stand with them on this issue of Abyei. How many times had this been resolved: through the ABC, The Hague Ruling, and you name it; and they are still unconvinced!

    I strongly suggest the SPLM stand its ground this time and give them a cold shoulder to resort to whatever they want. If it means war, so be it. By God sake, we will all bleed blood. This murderous NIF/NCP must be reminded that the over-two decades civil war devastated us all. Therefore, war is not a threat only to the South but the whole of Sudan. It`s also has to be made clear that this time round, the semi-autonomous South is well equiped unlike the previous war when the SPLA was just a guerilla fighter!

    God forbide, but the South is near an optionless position as the NCP is tearing down the last pillar of CPA- Abyei issue. I pray South will rise above this intimidation and emerge victoriously either through this meaningless renegotiation or otherwise through the military confrontation that these murderers are badly in need.

    Long live the freedom of humanity, long live the right of South Sudan, Abyei, and all the marginalized areas of Sudan to determine their own destiny. And long live the Promises of Our LIfe; the South Sudan and Abyei Referunda as well as Popular Counsultations in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile Regions. Southern Sudanese and all the marginalized people of the Sudan DESERVED ALL RIGHTS to defend and determine their future at all cost.

    God bless and protect our gallant forces

    Kueer

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    • 13 October 2010 13:36, by Paul Ongee

      If I may ask who are the mediators? Are the mediators really well versed in the Abyei issue? Where were the mediators when the case of Abyei was referred to The Hague last year? Why would the so-called mediators override the decision already taken by Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague and agreed upon by the ruling partners—SPLM and NCP?

      Not NCP-backed Meseirya, SPLM was the one to complain first about the decision of ceding the key oil fields to the North. Instead, SPLM remained quiet for the sake of peace. First of all, seasonal grazing in someone’s land is NEVER a right whether it has been going on for some years or decades. How can we interpret or call it a right by law? I think the mediators are selected by NCP to come out with the two meaningless and senseless proposals I have never heard of in the history of the universe.

      The only solution is let the Meseirya use force or go to The Hague again for appeal rather than engaging SPLM in nonsensical discussions. Why would Abyei be a Kashmir while Halayeb is not? Does Khartoum believe that it’s easier to deal with SPLM/Southerners than Egyptians? The elders of Meseirya and Dinka Ngok were there in The Hague during the ruling by PCA but the question is why didn’t Meseirya elders/NCP complain or go to the court of appeal?

      I can’t just understand the logic of coming up with a proposal during the recent UN meeting in New York to go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for another discussions on Abyei that will never yield anything. To be on the record book of IGAD and AU? Are we not indirectly renegotiating CPA? If we assumed that CPA failed to solve the issue of Abyei, what about PCA? The answer is simple. All these two previous decisions were made outside Khartoum although agreed upon. They are supposed to be decided in Khartoum by the majority-led NCP Parliament in its favor but not for the sake of peace. Why would NCP engage us indirectly to renegotiate or abrogate CPA by ourselves? We have important things to do.

      Paul Ongee
      Khartoum, Sudan

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  • 13 October 2010 14:24, by Hillary B.M.L,M

    Apart from the above!!!!

    Could you please, contributors on this web tell me the latest information about 1- Famous-Logic-Boy, 2-Dinka boy, 3- Busta 2, 4-Tobosa boy Southerner,-5-James, 6- Gatwech and others who were well notorious on this web?
    I meant, i miss them indeed.

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  • 14 October 2010 01:05, by James Nyol

    The proposal that people who lived in Abyei land for more than 200 days for the last 3 years should vote is irrelevant. Those who proposed this in the first place are fools and who know nothing about heritage and belongings. Why did British left African countries and granted them indeendents yet they were there for more than 100 year? The land in Abyei belong to Abyeian not bunch of bandits of Miserriyia who came their yesterday and then claims to belong there. They must go back to where they came from like it or not.

    J. Nyol

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