A prominent member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party [NCP] says reports of 14 deaths in Abyei Tuesday are “completely false.” The victims were said to have died in clashes between the [northern] Sudanese army and southern forces.
The violence began when police stopped a convoy of northern troops that had entered Abyei, which is rich in oil and is claimed by both the north and the south. Southern officials say an agreement signed between the two regions stipulates that only a joint force is allowed to enter Abyei.
Ruling party member Rabie Abdelati Obeid said the northern troops are part of that force, and it is it “illogical” for them to be blamed for the death of residents in Tuesday’s clashes. He says if there were clashes, they were likely tribal in nature.
“This is something that cannot be believed and [is] not reasonable and not justified, as I think that this is false information..
The northern army’s participation in the force is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] between the two regions, he said. Under the CPA, it is to maintain control of Abyei until a referendum can be held to decide whether it will join the north or south. A ballot scheduled for January was cancelled when disputes erupted over who could vote. So far talks have failed to produce an agreement, and Obeid insisted that until one is reached. Abyei will continue to be part of the north.
Abyei was a battleground during Sudan's 21-year north-south civil war and each side regularly accuses the other of sending in large numbers of soldiers.
“[The] Abyei problem should be solved according to what [is] mentioned in the [CPA], by [conducting] a referendum for the Abyei people to decide…either to be part of the north or a part of the south,” said Obeid.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said last week that his government would not recognize south Sudan as an independent state if it did not give up claims on Abyei.