Abyei: An Ongoing Dilemma
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, known in media circles as the Naivasha Agreement, did not put an end to the dispute between the Sudanese government and SPLM on the issue of border area of Abyei, instead, the agreement, which was signed in 2005, left the issue of Abyei to be handled by a special protocol known as the Abyei protocol, a protocol whose content implies that a referendum be conducted to poll the inhabitants of the area on whether the area belongs to North or South Sudan, but the issue of Abyei remains unresolved despite all the solutions, reserving its seat along the other unresolved issues between Khartoum and Juba such as borders, oil, debts, water etc.
Many problematic issues surfaced in the negotiation rounds regarding Abyei, the most important of which is the citizenship issue which inherently poses the question: Who are the original people of Abyei? Are they Dinka Ngok, Misseiriya, or both? This issue complicated the dispute over Abyei. Analysts specialized in the issue of Abyei regard the dispute around the identity of the original people of Abyei as being inextricably related to the referendum where the descendents of Abyei in SPLM which rule South Sudan try to alienate Misseiriya who represent the majority of the area's population and may tilt the result of the referendum towards settling it as a Northern territory.
During the transitional period from January 9th 2005 to July 9th 2011 at the end of which South Sudan was declared independent, Abyei was being run by a joint administration between the government of Sudan and SPLM, an administration that belonged to the Presidency of the Republic, but after secession the administration and authority issues became a bone of contention between the negotiating parties.
Director of the local peace organization (ANGATO) Abdulrahman Njtan told (Sudan Vision) that what is currently disputed is the Abyei Legislature. According to Njtan, SPLM seeks to realize a number of political interests through controlling the legislature which will enable it to pass the legislative policies pertinent to referendum and the regulations organizing the referendum and voters.
Njtan added that the administrative vacuum created by the tenacity and obduracy of the South Sudan delegation taking part in the Abyei negotiations paves the way for the influential Abyei descendants in SPLM to get many Southerners settled in Abyei benefitting from the absence of civil institutions in the area.
In efforts to restrain security instability in Abyei, a joint oversight committee was formed to oversee things in Abyei and restore things to order until the referendum is conducted.
Joint head of the oversight committee Alkhair Alfaheem Almakki said the committee is made up of four members, two from the North and two from the South. In an interview with (Alsahafa Newspaper) Alfaheem added that the current meeting is held to discuss security and administrative issues. Alfaheem thinks the solution lies in not fragmenting the formation of civil institutions in Abyei, indicating that the executive body cannot function in the absence of a legislative one.
Abyei was not very well known to the majority of Sudanese people until after the ratification of Naivasha agreement, an event after which the area became politically important and placed itself at the center stage of the media. This leads to the question: Why is the area all that important?
Professor of Political Science Alsaori said in a previous interview with the newspaper that oil, and the SPLM leaders whose origins date back to Abyei are behind this importance.
Reports indicate that the inhabitants of Abyei –according to the census carried out in April this year- live around the Arab Lake, Misseiriya live north of the lake and Dinka Ngok live south of the lake. According to United Nations census, the cattle herders in Abyei total 200 thousand the majority of which are Misseiriya owning 8 million heads of cattle.
Here again, yet another question poses itself: Until when will Abyei inhabitants live subject to the negotiations and policies which serve the interests of particular individuals in SPLM seeking to encourage instability so that Abyei wouldn't lose its importance, and in order to achieve that goal, they sabotage any progress towards addressing unresolved issues between Khartoum and Juba.
By Mohamed Abdallah, 08/07/2012