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US says referendum only way to resolve Abyei conflict

May 26, 2013 (JUBA)-The US government has reiterated its support to two Sudans, insisting the only way the two countries can resolve the impasse over the contested region of Abyei was through a referendum.

US secretary of state John Kerry (L) meets with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 26 May 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Secretary of State, John Kerry, while meeting South Sudan president Salva Kiir, said the new nation and its northern neighbour needed to stick to the African Union proposal that a referendum, in the disputed region, be held in October this year.

“We commend the government of South Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir and the government of Sudan for showing interest to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue,” Kerry reportedly told Kiir Sunday.

Peaceful dialogue is the worldwide approach of resolving conflict of such nature and the United States remains ready to provide support required by the parties to end the conflict, he stressed.

Last year, the AU mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei this October, but that only those residing permanently in the area will be allowed to vote in the plebiscite and decide whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan.

This proposal would effectively make the majority of voters come from the Dinka Ngok tribe, aligned with South Sudan thus putting the Arab Misseriya nomads, who spend several months in Abyei every year for grazing, at a disadvantage.

The mediators said that the exclusion of the Misseriya nomads comes in line with the decision of the Hague-based arbitration court, which defined the territory of the Ngok Dinka nine chiefdoms in July 2009.

However, Sudan swiftly rejected the plan, which received the blessing of the AU Peace and Security Council, suggesting the matter be referred to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to make it binding.

The U.S Secretary of State was one of the heads of states and foreign representatives, who held a series of meetings with the South Sudan leader on the sidelines of the extraordinary AU summit for African leaders attending the 50th anniversary of the 54-member body.

The AU, previously known as the Organization of African Union (OAU), was formed in 1963.

“Conflict can be resolved through peaceful dialogue. There can never be an end to the conflict through violence. The dispute over the future of Abyei can be resolved through the conduct of the referendum,” the US Secretary of State said.

This is the universal approach of resolving conflict of such nature and US remains ready to provide necessary support to organize the conduct of the referendum, he emphasised.

The meeting between the two leaders came just days after Kiir and his Sudan counterpart, Omer al Bashir failed to strike a deal over the final status of the oil producing region.

Luka Biong Deng, a native of Abyei, told Sudan Tribune Saturday that presidents Kiir and Bashir failed to reach a compromise over the final status of the disputed region, after the South Sudan leader insisted that the referendum issue be prioritised, while Bashir wanted formation of an interim administration.

Deng, who is a senior member of the south-ruling party (SPLM), was part of the officials selected to represent South Sudan at the meeting on the sidelines of the summit, also attended by other African leaders and foreign diplomats.

Meanwhile, a committee, comprising of a representative from Sudan and South Sudan, two from the United Nations and one from the AU, has been formed to investigate circumstance under which a tribal leader was killed in Abyei, last month.

Kuol Deng Kuol, a paramount chief of the Dinka Ngok tribe was killed when a convoy in which was traveling was attacked by Arab nomads in the region. A UN peacekeeper was also killed, while two others were injured in the same attack.

The UN Secretary General, US and a host of African leaders condemned the killing, describing as a setback to efforts aimed at resolving the deadlock in the disputed oil-producing region.

(ST)