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Abyei's biggest tribe supports the separation in Sudan

The Dinka Ngok, Abeyi's largest tribe, back the upcoming 9 January referendum but insist that the Misseriya tribe, which makes annual migrations to the region, should not be included in the vote

Ahram Online, Sunday 12 Dec 2010

The chief of Sultans Council of Dinka Ngok tribesmen, a consultative body, from Sudan's disputed oil-producing Abyei region said they would join the south in independence if the referendum, scheduled to be held on the 9th of January, does not include the aforementioned region.

Abyei is set to vote in the independence referendum for south Sudan, which most believe will result in secession.

But north and south Sudan are currently in a state of deadlock over who will plan and who will vote in the Abyei plebiscite. The stalemate has led to doubts that the Abyei vote can be held at all.

The south says the Dinka Ngok tribe and other residents can vote in the plebiscite, but the north insists the nomadic Misseriya, an Arabic speaking tribe, must also vote since they annually migrate south into Abyei for four months to graze their cattle.

“We will not accept the participation of the Misseriya tribe in the referendum. The north's ignorance to our right to self-determination will be countered by our imminent independence and our union with the south” said John Madout, the Dinka Chief of Sultans Council, in a telephone interview with Ahram Online.

Abyei has become the focus of a dispute that threatens the north-south peace process which began after a 2005 peace deal. Experts fear it could be the flashpoint which could spark a return to conflict.

The northern ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected the Abyei borders drawn by a group of experts appointed under the 2005 deal.

“The 2005 peace deal is clear and only grants Abyei’s nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms the right to vote on independence, as they inhabited this area before 1956. The Misseriya tribe immigrated to this area just a few years ago”, Madout added.

He pointed out that the Dinka recognises the Misseriya's right to graze cattle, but voting is restricted to original inhabitants.

High-level US and African Union brokered talks have failed to reach a compromise and a 9 January Abyei vote looks unlikely.

Talks are due to take place this week in an effort to achieve a breakthrough. South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki, who is leading an African Union mediation team, said in a statement last week that the meetings were "critical for addressing the future of the people of Sudan."

The AU team is confident that the two sides can reach "comprehensive and constructive agreements on all post-referendum issues", the statement added. The African Union has proposed a solution to the Abyei stalemate but details have not been revealed to the media.

The United States said this week that it does not expect the referendum on Abyei to take place as planned.

Sadek Abo Nemr, a leader in the Misseriya tribe told to Ahram Online that the tribal leaders would not give up their right to vote and determine their future destiny.

“We have lived in this area before the arrival of the Dinka tribe, so we ought to have the right to vote. Our future, our life and our family is here, in this region, so why we are not allowed to vote?”

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