JUBA — You could call it a concerted effort for Abyei: some of South Sudan’s best-known musicians performed at a fundraiser this weekend for people who are returning to Abyei ahead of a proposed referendum on the disputed territory's future.
More than 500 people donated between 25 and 100 South Sudanese pounds to get into Juba's Freedom Hall and organizers say they raised some 20,000 pounds. Nyok Deng Rou of Abyei Task Force, which organized the event on Saturday, said the funds raised will be used to buy food and water for people who have returned to Abyei to vote.
Concert-goers listened to some of their favorite bands and demanded that the Abyei referendum be held this month as recommended by the African Union, the United States and several other Western countries.
According to the 2005 agreement that ended more than 20 years of civil war in Sudan, Abyei residents were to vote in January 2011 on whether they would remain part of Sudan or become a part of southern Sudan. The Abyei referendum was to take place at the same time that southernors were voting on whether to secede from Sudan.
Musicians like Peter Garang, of the popular band Southern Voice, and show organizer Rou -- who is from Abyei -- called on the concert-goers to keep up the pressure until the vote is held.
Prized for its fertile land and oil reserves, the 10,000 square kilometer region is claimed by the north and south, and is currently under United Nations' administration.
Khartoum has repeatedly said it will not allow the proposed Abyei referndum 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 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.
Musician Duop Pur Duop said the concert was all about keeping the pressure on so that the vote happens.
“My songs contributed towards the referendum of South Sudan and independence, and right now we are in position to provide the same songs and to participate, to support, to make sure that the referendum of Abyei takes place," he said.
"We are trying to do awareness to the people of Abyei that it is time for them to be free, musically, morally and socially,” he said.
Duop said he and other artists who performed on Saturday will travel to Abyei later this month to hold another concert and demand that the referendum take place.