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Abyei: A test of African solutions for African problems

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By Luka Biong Deng

June 30, 2013 - Abyei is one of the issues that dominated the quality of relations between Southern Sudan and South Sudan since the independence of Sudan in 1956 and it will continue to do the same after the independence of South Sudan. The transfer of the Ngok Dinka by the British colonial administration in 1905 from Southern Sudan to Northern Sudan with the good intention of protecting them from the barbaric slave raids by the Arab nomads has turned into misery and suffering that will continue to haunt the Ngok Dinka. Despite the effective participation of the Ngok Dinka in the first and second civil war that ended with peace agreements that addressed the issue of Abyei, yet the final status of Abyei remains to be concluded.

Unlike the way the issue of Abyei was vaguely addressed in the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) addressed it with much clarity with Abyei having its protocol as one of the six protocols of the CPA. In fact the Abyei Protocol was mediated by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). In particular, the Abyei Protocol provided for a referendum for the Ngok Dinka of Abyei to determine their final status and to establish Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) to define and demarcate the area of the nine (9) Ngok Dinka chiefdoms (not Misseriyia Arab nomads) that was transferred in 1905 from Southern Sudan to Northern Sudan. The CPA made it very clear that the report of the ABC shall be final and binding. The ABC presented its report to the Presidency of Sudan (Bashir, the President of Sudan, Dr John Garang, the President of Southern Sudan and Ali Osman, the Vice President of Sudan) on 14th July 2005. The report of the ABC clearly defined the area of the Ngok Dinka as approximately 18,559 square kilometers.

Bashir and his party rejected the final and binding ABC report and that marked the beginning of clear abrogation of one of the provisions of the CPA that was paradoxically signed by the government of Bashir. This dispute over this report lasted more than three years and resulted in eruption of war in the Abyei Area in May 2008 that caused massive displacement and loss of innocent lives. In an effort to save CPA and to maintain peace and stability after the invasion of Abyei by Bashir in May 2008, Bashir and President Salva signed on 8th June 2008 the Abyei Roadmap for the return of the displaced Ngok Dinka and implementation of Abyei Protocol. In this Roadmap, the SPLM as a signatory of the CPA and upon the request of the Government of Sudan accepted to take the matter of dispute over the report of ABC to the final and binding international arbitration. On 7th July 2008, the Government of Sudan and SPLM as signatories of the CPA signed the Arbitration Agreement on Delimiting (defining) the Abyei Area.

The Abyei Arbitration Tribunal under the facilitation of the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration and after a process that took nine (9) months that involved the two Parties and almost the entire leaders of Ngok Dinka and Arab Misseriyia nomads passed its ruling on 22nd July 2009 and redefined the area of Ngok Dinka as approximately 10,460 square kilometers (almost 54 percent less than the area defined by the ABC). The Tribunal noted that its decision is meant to ensure the inclusion and participation of most members of the Ngok Dinka in Abyei referendum as its main targeted community. While Bashir welcomed the decision of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal with emotional statement on 22nd July 2009 that they have won the case, President Salva on the same day described the decision as a victory for all Sudanese and reaffirmed the commitment of the SPLM to the full implementation of the decision as a final settlement of the issue of Abyei Area.

While the ruling of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal was seen to resolve not only the determination of the area of the Ngok Dinka but also the eligible participants in Abyei referendum, Bashir insisted that the Arab Misseriyia nomads to participate in Abyei referendum and refused to establish Abyei Referendum Commission to be chaired by a nominee of the SPLM as previously agreed upon by the parties. Bashir invaded Abyei again in May 2011 and displaced about 150,000 Ngok Dinka from their home areas and the referendum of Abyei did not take place simultaneously with that of Southern Sudan on 9th July 2011 as stipulated in the CPA.

In order to rescue Abyei Protocol and to assist the return of Ngok Dinka to their home areas, the two parties agreed on 20th June 2011 on the Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area. In particular the agreement provides for the process for resolving the final status of Abyei with a commitment by the Parties to consider, in good faith, proposals that the AUHIP shall make to resolve the final status of Abyei. The AUHIP made six proposals for resolving the final status of Abyei but Bashir and President Salva could not agree on any of these six proposals.

In an effort to put the two countries on track of peace, the AU came with a Roadmap that provides a framework within a time-bound of three months for resolving holistically all the pending issues between the two states including the final status of Abyei. When the Parties failed to agree on resolving the issue of Abye, the AUHIP came up on 21st September 2012 with a proposal on the final status of Abyei. This Proposal provides clarity and addresses fundamental questions of eligibility for Abyei Referendum (only residents but not nomads), the date of the referendum (October 2013), the chair of Abyei Referendum Commission (appointee of the AU Commission) and special status of Abyei area (status of state with oil revenue allocated to Abyei state (30%), national government (50%) and localities north of Abyei area in Southern Kordofan State (20%).

This Proposal was prepared by three prominent African leaders (former President of South Africa, former President of Nigeria and former President of Burundi). There is no any other African solution for African problem than the AUHIP proposal on the final status of Abyei area. As Bashir has been calling for the issue of Abyei to be resolved within African context, the AUHIP Proposal on Abyei is an African proposal prepared by African leaders without any influence from western countries. Abyei is a litmus test of how AU will stand by its commitment in resolving African problems by Africans themselves.

Luka Biong Deng is a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling party the SPLM. He is currently a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. He can be reached at lukabiong@kushworld.org. The article was originally published by the New Nation Newspaper.



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  • 1 July 2013 09:58, by valentinoakec@yahoo.com

    Dear Dr.Luka Biong, you are absolutely right, it is a litmus test to the AU and AUHIP, this is a true test to the effectiveness and the credibility of the African organization in solving African Problems, the Abyei final status resolution should have been long tabled before the UNSC for endorsement and enforcement, but the President of AUHIP is not doing it according to UN resolution 2046.

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    • 1 July 2013 13:33, by Peacocktail

      If last resorts of no agreement, then can both parties sort it out with real muscle because holding Dinka Ngok rights is not acceptable and killing of paramount Chief Deng Kuol. AU is just for bribery and South Sudanese need to double their effort of liberating Abyei with full swing, No Referenda then chose war for Abyei. Thank You Dr.Luka for enlighting us on slowness of Parties including AUHIP.

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      • 1 July 2013 14:47, by Peter Mading

        Au proposal favoring North because, we are not supporting theories with practical works. We need to engage physically. Refering Abyei as a limust test is a practical chemical experiment to show degree of acidity or akhalinity. The Abyei is more acidic and need engagement.

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    • 1 July 2013 21:34, by Brig General Paulino

      Biong Deng Kuol is disturbing people by writing nonsense to mislead the public.The issue of Abyei need the sons/daughters of the area to move and establish their base in Abyei instead of staying in Juba by looting the public fund of innocent people of
      Deng Alor Kuol – Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr Francis South Sudan Ambassador to UN,Arop South Sudan ambassador to AU,Chol Deng RSS Ambassador t

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      • 4 July 2013 11:43, by Akol Liai Mager

        I am afraid that the comment above is not inline with a great rank’s title. An Army’s or a Police Captain knows every inch of his/her Country’s territory leave alone General who can rule the whole country unless it is a General in a Militia-Army.

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      • 5 July 2013 08:52, by Superkuol

        Dear Brig. General Paulino
        Telling the truth does not amount to misinformation of the public. Biong Deng is only stating the truth as the Bible says, say the truth and the truth shall set you free. You are only jealous of the people because you think very narrowly. The issue of Abyei needs all South Sudanese not and the people of Abyei only.

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        • 5 July 2013 09:05, by Superkuol

          Dear Brig. Gen
          When the liberation war was fought, it wasn’t done so on the basis people should liberate their area of birth. When you say the fight for Abyei should be spearheaded by the people of Abyei, It implies that you are misinformed and out of touch. All the post-independence issues are in the hands of the government of the Republic of South Sudan. It is the government that will solve the.

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    • 2 July 2013 08:36, by Kedo

      ADVICE: Do something for yourself. Don’t waste your time talking politics while others are enjoying their lives with money without politics. See how this Sudanese poor woman became a millionaire just by buying and selling accident cars, Very interesting idea. Go to (ACCIDENTEDCARS.COM) to see the methods and companies that she was using to do that (ACCIDENTEDCARS.COM) Wake Up Africans

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    • 2 July 2013 09:16, by Big Boy

      Resource you should not be enjoying luxurious hotels and claim to be Dr B. Abyei has never contributed with one heart. Now, those of Atem Fiyen,Monylam Deng Koul and Ayom Matet are still with Khartoum claiming that they are Sudanese citizen and you, the clan of Pajok are here. Why don’t you reconcile the different voices of Abyei? Or you mean your presence there in Juba to be a source of looting?

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      • 2 July 2013 09:20, by Big Boy

        Cont..or feeding your children with our blood as your house in Juba is full with peoples of Pajok if it’s hospital all are pajok, and go abraod and asked for help by the name of abyei people’s. and keep the money to feed amongts urselves in juba...

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      • 5 July 2013 08:44, by Superkuol

        Dear Big Boy.
        No doubt, you are from Abyei because you seem to know more about other Abyei and its people. Knowing the names like Monylam Deng and Ayom Matet to mention but a few means you hail from the same area with these people. What you should know is this: This piece of opinion is not about Pajok. It is about the whole of Abyei area and how the problem of Abyei could be resolved.

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  • 1 July 2013 16:55, by Mapuor

    You just unite and struggle hard to reverse your past mistakes.South Sudan are good people and have entertained nonsense for too long.Dr Luka should recall the words of late Dr John Garang that" Yaa Junubin if you reach the end of your borders with the North,just stop there others will continue with their liberation"May God bless you in your struggle.

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  • 2 July 2013 08:39, by sudani ana

    Luka
    10.460 is not "almost 54% less than 18.559" it is 54% of the other.

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  • 4 July 2013 00:46, by Zionist

    Luka Biong
    Your article is very informative, articulated and well executed. However, more need to be done bye Abyei’s elites, and they’re so many, and are so powerful. Nowadays, there’re so many voices from South Sudan calling on Abyei’s sons and daughters to spearhead the arm struggle to bring Abyei back to the motherland of South Sudan, since all attempts to bring Abyei back through negotiations have miserably faild. Moreover, Abyei’s sons and daughter should not expect their land to be given back to them in a silver platter, because what’s taken by force will only be return by force. It doesn’t matter who will fire the first bullet- Luka Biong, Deng Alor or Edward Lino - what will matter is that many of Abyei’s sons and daughters will follow the lead.

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