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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid