September 9, 2012 (JUBA) — United States Administration expressed its support to the organisation of a referendum on the status of Abyei and to uphold the rights of the Ngok Dinka in the disputed area, said Luka Biong Deng following a visit to Washington.
- Luka Biong Deng (photo Lomayat)
The co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) attended the convention of the Democratic Party in Charlotte, North Carolina, before stopping in Washington where he met with the US President’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Princeton Lyman and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman on Friday 7 September.
He also met with Director of African Affairs in the White House Grant Harris, who was a close aide to the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
From Washington Biong headed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa to join the South Sudanese delegation for the talks over the outstanding between the two countries which includes the final status of Abyei.
In statements emailed to Sudan Tribune, Biong said he was reassured by the position of American officials who reiterated their clear commitment to ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which defined Abyei borders.
He further said they back the organisation of a "referendum for the people of Abyei with eligibility criteria that would ensure the decision of the Ngok Dinka as the main targets as well as having a credible referendum commission."
Sudan and South Sudan disagree on who can participate in a vote agreed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) where the residents of the region have to choose between joining the now independent South Sudan or remain part of South Kordofan State in Sudan.
The divergence led to postpone the organisation of the referendum which was supposed to be held simultaneously with the referendum on South Sudan secession in January 2011.
Sudanese army took the control of the area in May 2011 after an attack on its troops and President Omer Al-Bashir removed the agreed administration. However, an Ethiopian force is deployed in Abyei in accordance with an agreement signed on 20 June 2011 and the two parties pulled out their troops in June 2012.
Charles Abyei Jok, former Speaker of Abyei Area Legislative Council said he does not expect the formation of a joint administration in Abyei in the current process in Addis Ababa.
"We believe outcomes of the negotiations in Ethiopia will be final and binding decision on both parties”, Charles said on Sunday.
"If they will be final and binding decision, we therefore do not expect establishment of the joint administration in the area," Jok said, stressing that his community would prefer that the dispute be resolved through a referendum.
The two parties, differ over the formation of a temporary administration in line with the deal of 20 June 2011 because Juba demands that Khartoum appoints a Dinka Ngok at the position of speaker of the legislative assembly, but the former refuses such condition.
The mediation seek to maintain the status quo as to focus its efforts on the organisation of the referendum which remains the main target of the two parties, despite several altercations taking place in the areas between the youth of Dinka Ngok and Misseriya traders.
Thabo Mkebi who chairs the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) mediation team plans to hold a presidential meeting between Omer Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa on 21 September and present them a map road to settle this crucial issue.
"I shared with them (U.S. officials) our concerns about the intention of AUHIP not to share their proposal on the final status of Abyei with the negotiating team but only with the two Presidents and the danger of such approach that may undermine the entire talks," said Biong who leads the South Sudanese delegation in relation to Abyei.
To hold the Abyei referendum, the two parties have to agree on Abyei Area Referendum Commission, and the referendum Act which should define the eligibility of voters.
Sudan’s insistence that the Misseriya are resident in the area and therefore should be allowed to vote, has been a major sticking point.
Biong said the U.S. officials pledged to assist the return of those displaced by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) after it seized the in May 2011, and support recovery and development project in Abyei.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman "in particular passed a clear message to the people of Abyei of the strong commitment of U.S. government to the cause of the people of Abyei and she reiterated that the people of Abyei should always remember that U.S. is fully behind their cause," Biong said in an email.
In November the incumbent Democratic Party President, Barak Obama, will fight the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney the candidate of Republican Party for re-election.
Both candidates declare their support to South Sudan.
Last July, two former special envoys to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, and Richard Williamson who joined Romney team, criticised the " soft posture" of President Obama and pledged to work for the deployment of an international force on the common border between the two countries.