An East African regional summit on Sudan wrapped up its meetings yesterday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The parties were unable to reach a deal between the north and south on key disputes which threaten the referendum on southern independence. However, the two sides did agree to keep talking as time begins to run out.
Heads of state from the regional group the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), including wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, gathered at a hotel Tuesday to see what could be done to ensure the success of southern Sudan's referendum.
While registration on independence vote for South Sudan, due to take place next January, is still ongoing, citizens of the contested border region of Abyei are still waiting on arrangements to be agreed upon in order that the poll may proceed.
Until now the South Sudan referendum commission (SSRC) has failed to open voter registration centres in Abyei due to ongoing disputes between the north and south.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the National Congress Party (NCP) on behalf of the government of Sudan and the former southern rebels, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), South Sudan will hold an independence vote to decide whether it should remain part of a united Sudan or vote to become a new nation.
The agreement also allows a referendum in the oil producing region of Abyei to decide whether to join Bahr el Ghazal state in the south or remain in the south Kordofan state on the other side of the border.
Most residents of Abyei are the Dinka Ngok, who were transferred to the northern side of the border in 1905 during the colonial period.
However, the northern, pastoralist Misseriya tribes migrate to Abyei annually during the dry season to allow their cattle to graze.
Since the Misseriya live in Abyei for several months every year, the ruling NCP argues that they have the right to vote, while the SPLM insists that the law clearly made nomention of the Misseriya.
Speaking to Ahram Online, the head of the negotiating team of Misseriya, Hasb Al –Rasoul Alnor, said, “We have a right to vote since we practically live in Abyei.”
“Denying the rights of Misseriya will inevitably lead to tension”, he added.
The Dink Ngok disagree. “The law is clear, only Dinka Ngok and the Sudanese who live in Abyei since 1956 and nobody else”, asserts Salah Almaleeh, the communication officer of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) in Cairo.
“GOSS will safeguard the grazing rights for Misseriya in south Sudan territories.”