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Sudan Tribune

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There are “misleading voices from Khartoum” over Abyei ruling – Machar

By James Gatdet Dak

July 27, 2009 (JUBA) – The Deputy Chairperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Vice President of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan dismissed, as misleading, claims over participation of other non-Ngok Dinka residents in the upcoming referendum in Abyei in 2011.

Girls from Ngok-Dinka of Abyei holding flowers and waiting to receive SPLM D/Chairperson Dr. Riek Machar and his delegation at Juba airport, July 27, 2009, (photo by James. G. Dak -ST)
Girls from Ngok-Dinka of Abyei holding flowers and waiting to receive SPLM D/Chairperson Dr. Riek Machar and his delegation at Juba airport, July 27, 2009, (photo by James. G. Dak -ST)
President of the Republic of Sudan, Omer Al-Bashir, publicly stated after the Abyei ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague that Misseriya residents in Abyei area would also participate in the 2011 referendum.

Ambassador Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, head of the National Congress Party (NCP) delegation to the PCA also said the tribunal court had given the Heglig oilfield to Southern Kordofan state in North Sudan.

However, in a brief statement he issued to hundreds of jubilant citizens of Southern Sudan, particularly from Abyei, who converged at Juba airport on Monday to welcome the southern Sudanese delegation returning from The Hague via Khartoum, the SPLM Deputy Chairperson, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, told the crowd that the claims by the NCP leadership over who should vote in Abyei referendum and the fate of Heglig oilfields were misleading.

Accompanied by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Luka Biong Deng, Machar, who also headed the SPLM delegation to The Hague’s court, said it was very clear in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that it is the nine Ngok-Dinka chiefdoms that will vote in the referendum to either rejoin the South or remain in the North.

The SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum, who received Machar at the airport, said the SPLM was committed to respecting the decision of the court and appreciated the work well done by the SPLM team at The Hague.

In a separate press conference he held shortly after briefing the SPLM Chairperson Salva Kiir Mayardit, Dr. Machar also further explained that the Abyei situation of who should qualify to vote will similarly apply to the South Sudanese referendum. Only non-South Sudanese who had been in the South since 1956 will participate in the referendum in 2011, he added.

“If you ask, for instance, a Bari chief to identify a non-South Sudanese who had been in the area [of Juba] since 1956 he can show you,” he said, referring to non-qualification of residents that migrated to Southern Sudan after 1956 and whose biological link to South Sudanese tribal members are not agreed and confirmed.

On the Heglig oilfield, Machar said the area belongs to Unity state (Upper Nile region). He added this was confirmed that it belonged to Upper Nile region by a committee formed during the government of the High Executive Council in Juba by the former President of the Republic, late Jaafer Mohamed Nimeiri, after the discovery of oil in the area.

“President Omer Al-Bashir knows that Heglig belongs to Unity state. He used to be there himself and knew that the area was in Unity state,” he further explained.

However, Machar added that the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) Report included Heglig as part of Abyei in their report which was initially rejected by the NCP in the Presidency in July 2005.

He said for the sake of unity within the SPLM organization and among the people of Southern Sudan, the SPLM thought that the time was not appropriate to contest the ownership of heglig area between Unity state and Abyei at the time.

The SPLM Deputy Chairperson said the party wanted to first settle the issue of Abyei boundaries after which they could resolve the North-South borders that would also settle any dispute over the heglig oilfields.

In the Abyei Road Map agreement of June 2008, heglig area was taken out of Abyei by both the NCP and the SPLM, he said, adding that it was not part of the ruling in The Hague. “It will be resolved in the North-South border demarcation process,” he explained, assuring the crowd that the area was part of Unity state.

Machar said it was unfair and wrong for somebody to say that the South would not get any oil revenue accruing from heglig without looking into the reality of the situation.

He pointed out that the same issue goes with some of the western part of Abyei such as meyrem, which he explained belonged to Northern Bahr el Ghazal, but was said to have been given to the North. “This is not true,” he said.

“There are native residents from the area [Northern Bahr el Ghazal] who used to reside and work in the area even during the construction of the railway [to Wau]. Some are still alive and one of them is now a Presidential Advisor in the Government of Southern Sudan,” Machar further explained, adding that the ownership of the area was very clear.

A committee would soon be formed by the Presidency for the next phase to physically demarcate on the ground the territory of the nine Ngok-Dinka Chiefdoms in accordance with the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, he added.

He called upon the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya tribes to continue to live as peaceful neighbors.

(ST)