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South Sudan’s Amum accuses Sudan of ethnic cleansing in Abyei

June 7, 2013 (JUBA) - A senior South Sudanese official has accused the government of neigbouring Sudan of ethnic cleansing in the contested border region of Abyei, allegedly to discourage return of Dinka Ngok residents.

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SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum (AFP/Getty)

Pagan Amum, the secretary general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), was speaking to reporters shortly after meeting President Salva Kiir Mayardit in the state house.

Kiir, Amum said, has granted him, as South Sudan’s lead negotiator, the authority to present the position of the government to an upcoming meeting of an African Union team of border experts and conflict mitigation in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Amum said the president had assured him of his readiness to provide necessary support to the full implementation of the bilateral cooperation agreement signed in September 2012.

"The president accepted the plan and gave me his authority and assurances of commitment to fully implement the cooperation agreement as well as desire to peacefully settle the differences we have over the status of Abyei", he said.

He said South Sudan accepts the proposal by African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to hold referendum in Abyei as the only way to settle the dispute.

"You all know that the position of the president and the government of South Sudan have always been peaceful dialogue and the best mechanisms to settle dispute over Abyei in a way that respects and promotes peaceful coexistence and bilateral relations between the two communities but the government of Sudan has always taken different routes", he said.

He further told reporters that Khartoum has "refused to accept African union proposal to hold a referendum (in October of this year without the Messeeiya nomads) and decided to engage to employ ethnic cleansing activities. They have decided to engage in massive settlement plans of the non-resident of Abyei and seriously arming militia groups to terrorize the local population".

The chief negotiator pointed out that the recent killing of the paramount chief as one of the strategic plans of the government of Sudan to depopulate the area so that it could assume full control.

"The killing of the paramount chief Kuol Deng Kuol shows clearly that the government of Sudan was not ready to peacefully resolve the dispute. It wants to annihilate the Ngok Dinka. That was they killed the chief who was seen the bridge and played fundamental role in peaceful coexistence between the two communities who have never any problem between themselves. It is the government in Sudan that incites the conflict to remain in power", he stressed.

The Sudanese government rejected the accusations of being behind the death of Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief and an Ethiopian peacekeeper on 4 May between an UNIFSA force and Misseriya gunmen. Khartoum pledged to investigate the incident.

Abyei was supposed to vote in January 2011 on whether it would remain in Sudan or be transferred into South Sudan. But Khartoum and Juba continue to disagree on who can participate in this crucial vote.

Sudan insists that the Misseriya nomads, who enter the area for large parts of the year to graze their cattle should also be allowed to take part in any self determination exercise.

But Juba says only can vote the Dinka Ngok who would be expected to vote to join South Sudan if they constituted the majority of eligible voters, and the small number of Misseriya residing permanently there.