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Abyei referendum should be conducted without tribal interference

September 13, 2013 (RUMBEK) - The chairperson of Jeing Youth Union in South Sudan’s Lakes state has called for a referendum to determine the future of the contested Abyei region to go ahead in a peaceful and timely manner.

Abyei, the main contested region between Sudan and South Sudan (BBC)

In a press release issued by the union, members called on the citizens of Abyei to return home to decide their fate.

The union’s chairperson, Samuel Marial Dongrin, has also urged the two Sudans to set a date for the referendum to be held, saying Abyei citizens must be given an opportunity to determine their own destiny.

“We Jieng youth call for [the] timely and peaceful conduct of [the] Abyei referendum to take place on a set date and hour in October 2013”, Marial said.

“Abyei is a national concern because [the] nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms is not only going to vote to decide to be South Sudanese but also to decide whether [the] Abyei area will be a part and parcel of South Sudan territory”, he added.

Marial urged the Arab Misseriya nomads and the nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms to focus on national unity rather than tribal-related matters.

“We called on the government of Sudan to disengage [with the] Misseriya tribe from making Abyei as tribal case between Nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms and [the] Misseriya tribe and to allow [the] Abyei referendum to be held according [to the] guiding principles [of the international] court of arbitration Ruling and [the] African Union (AU)”, he said.

The union has also urged the international community and AU to exert more pressure on Khartoum to come to an agreement on the peaceful conduct of the referendum and end hostilities in the region.

Attempts to hold a vote on whether the oil-producing region should be returned to South Sudan or remain a part of Sudan have continued to stall over disagreements between Sudan and South Sudan over who should be allowed to participate in the vote.

Last year, the AU-led mediation team proposed that a referendum be held this October, with only those permanently residing in the area allowed to take part.

The proposal effectively rules out the Misseriya – who enter the region periodically to graze their cattle – from taking part in the plebiscite, with South-aligned Dinka Ngok residents are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of returning to South Sudan.

The Sudanese government has rejected the proposal and insists that public services and a joint administration be established prior to holding a vote.

The Abyei community has been increasingly vocal about ongoing delays in conducting a vote, threatening to go ahead with the ballot despite Khartoum’s rejection.

The Sudanese government has warned that any moves to hold a unilateral vote would constitute an illegal act.