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Political Agreement Needed in Abyei Crisis, Says Sudan Ruling Party Official

  • Peter Clottey

A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol on APC in Abyei, Southern Sudan, March 11, 2011

A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol on APC in Abyei, Southern Sudan, March 11, 2011

An official of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party [NCP] says the national armed forces will not withdraw from the disputed, oil-rich Abyei region until a political solution is reached. Northern forces seized Abyei last weekend.

Ibrahim Ghandour, head of information and media affairs of the NCP, said the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] stipulates that Abyei should remain part of the north until a referendum determines its future.

Under the agreement, Abyei was governed by a special administrative council placed under the presidency. Its members included allies of both the north and south. But President Omar al-Bashir dismissed the council.

The CPA also provides for joint patrols only, made up of northern and southern soldiers, to police Abyei.

“The army is not to stay there but it will never withdraw unless a political agreement has been reached and guarantees have been made that the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] will never come again to the area,” said Ghandour.

His comments came after President Omar al-Bashir said in a speech in Khartoum Tuesday that his forces will not withdraw.

Bashir also said he has given the “green light” for the northern army to respond to any possible “provocation” by the army of southern Sudan.

Members of the U.N. Security Council have demanded that northern troops leave Abyei, a demand Ghandour rejected.

“In order to institute peace, the United Nations should be neutral,” said Ghandour.

“They must look into the facts, which they know very well. It was the U.N. forces that were shot [at] at the beginning. This was not the first incident. It happened twice and it is war crime, as you know. But the U.N. never protested, never condemned. Now the Security Council is talking about withdrawal.”

Ghandour said the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] has repeatedly refused all proposals for a win-win settlement to resolve the dispute over Abyei, a charge officials in the south deny.

“They just want to declare Abyei as part of the south, which is unacceptable to anybody in the north.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman described Khartoum’s actions in Abyei as “extremely disproportionate” and a “very serious violation” of the CPA. But Ghandour rejected the accusation, calling it “very disappointing.”

Fighting erupted in Abyei last week, when a northern army convoy accompanied by U.N. peacekeepers came under attack.

The White House accused southern Sudanese forces of attacking the convoy and deplored the incident. But it has also condemned the Sudanese government’s seizure of Abyei.

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