News / Africa

    Sudans Still At Odds Over Abyei Referendum

    • Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, center-left, and South Sudan President Salva Kiir (r) celebrate the signing of 9 agreements, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 27, 2012.
    • A year after the agreements were signed, South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Benjamin Marial said Sudan has blocked progress on a key issue: a referendum on Abyei's status. 
    • Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti warned South Sudan against taking unilateral action on Abyei.
    • Abyei residents, who fled to northern Sudan during the long civil war, came back ahead of a referendum that was supposed to be held for the region in January 2011.
    • Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Abyei in Akong village in South Sudan want to return to Abyei to take part in a referendum in October on the area's status, which appears unlikely to happen.
    • People from the Misseriya tribe of the Abyei region protested last year against the African Union (AU) proposal for a referendum to decide whether the region belongs to Sudan or South Sudan.
    A year after the presidents of South Sudan and Sudan signed a series of agreements to consolidate peace, there are no signs that a key issue, the status of Abyei, is near to being resolved.
    John Tanza
    A year after South Sudan and Sudan signed nine agreements aimed at solidifying the fragile peace between the two countries, little progress has been made on implementing the pacts, with a key issue, the status of the territory of Abyei, still up in the air, the foreign ministers of both nations told Voice of America.

    South Sudanese Foreign Minister Benjamin Marial called Abyei “the most intricate problem we have with Sudan now” and, in an interview with Voice of America, said Sudan has blocked key steps laid out by the African Union to prepare for a referendum on Abyei’s status that was supposed to be held next month.

    The AU last year called for the establishment of an administration for the disputed border territory, the election of a council, the creation of a police force, and for a referendum commission to be set up, and eventually set a date for the vote, which the pan-African body proposed holding in October of this year.

    “What Sudan did is block the implementation of these four things, particularly the referendum commission,” Marial said as, days away from the start of October, there was no sign that the vote would be held.

    Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti did not directly reply to a question posed in a separate interview with VOA News about what was supposed to be the looming referendum on Abyei’s status, saying merely that the African Union “knows well that if nothing is agreed upon by the two parties, nothing could be enforced.”

    He also warned Juba against going it alone in Abyei, noting that “in the last statement issued by the heads of state of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, they clearly said no unilateral action should be taken as a way of resolving Abyei or any other issue."

    On Friday, the AU Peace and Security Council issued a statement urging the governments of South Sudan and Sudan “to establish the Abyei Area Referendum Commission and refrain from undertaking unilateral actions” in the disputed region.

    The status of the 10,000-square-kilometer area of Abyei has been in dispute since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended more than 20 years of civil war in Sudan.

    Prized for its fertile land and oil reserves, Abyei is currently under United Nations' administration.

    Abyei residents were originally supposed to vote on whether they would remain part of Sudan or become South Sudanese back in January 2011, on the same day that people in the south voted to secede from Sudan.

    Last week, hundreds of protesters rallied in front of U.N. headquarters in New York to demand that Khartoum facilitate the holding of a referendum on Abyei.

    Jon Temin, the Horn of Africa director for the U.S. Institute of Peace, told VOA News that Abyei was “foremost on the list” of bones of contention between the two Sudans “that have stalled and not moved anywhere,” in spite of two sides signing several agreements on a number of issues since South Sudan became independent in July 2011.

    “It is unfortunate, in the grand scheme of things, that there isn’t more of a global commitment amongst both parties, and particularly Sudan, to things that they agreed to on paper because it really diminishes the value of negotiations as a tool for resolving disputes,” Temin said.

    Khartoum has repeatedly said it will not allow the proposed referendum for Abyei to go ahead, citing the fact that Misseriya nomads, Sudanese citizens who pass through the disputed territory on their way to watering and grazing grounds for their cattle, would not be eligible to vote. 

    Experts have said that Khartoum is also worried about losing access to yet another oil-producing region after South Sudan won control of most of the once unified country's oil resources when it split from the north in 2011.

    Abyei community leaders have said that, regardless of how the vote goes, a final decision will allow for greater trade between South Sudan and Sudan, and finally give residents political representation.

    In spite of the two foreign ministers’ downbeat comments about Abyei, both officials were positive about last year’s agreements and future relations between the two neighbors.

    “Given the chance to work together, I think there is nothing to stop us,” Karti told VOA from New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly last week.

    “The future is very clear to me and it’s a bright one,” he said.

    Marial, meanwhile, called the nine agreements signed in Addis Ababa on Sept. 27 last year “an answer, which can bring about good neighborliness between the two states, which can guarantee the viability of the two states.”

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora