September 21, 2022 (JUBA) – South Sudan has urged the United Nations to recognise the outcomes of a referendum held in the contested oil-producing region in October 2013.
Only Dinka Ngok participated in the controversial referendum. About 99% of the Ngok Dinka voted to join South Sudan but governments in Khartoum and Juba declined to recognise it.
During a meeting with UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, South Sudan’s Vice President, Hussein Abdelbagi Akol described the situation in Abyei as “dire”, warranting the attention and support of the UN and the international community.
Akol said people in the disputed area have been marginalised and mistreated for a long time.
“The people of Abyei are frustrated and were now looking for the international community to stand by the decision of the people of Abyei. The people of Abyei have missed important opportunities,” he explained.
The 1972 peace deal, which ended the first civil war in Sudan from which South Sudan seceded in 2011, contained a provision that encouraged the President of Sudan to issue an executive order to return Abyei from Kordofan to which it was in 1905 to Bahr el Ghazal State in South Sudan. This provision was never utilised, yet it was an opportunity.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) also gave Abyei a special place with a protocol permitting the conduct of a referendum at which its natives could either decide to maintain the status quo or choose to return to South Sudan. The referendum was never held.
Abyei’s Dinka Ngok residents are culturally and ethnically allied to South Sudan and backed its rebel army during decades of civil war against Khartoum’s rule.
The Arabic-speaking Misseriya people also see it as their ancestral homeland and want to remain in Sudan. The territorial claim over the disputed area has allowed the cause to stagnant.
In line with a deal sealed in June 2011, the Sudanese government and the SPLM agreed a month before the independence to form joint administration in the disputed region.
The difference in who is eligible to participate in the self-determination referendum has delayed the organization of a referendum recognized by the two countries.
According to the comprehensive peace agreement, Abyei remains part of the Sudan until the organisation of the agreed vote to determine the fate of the border region.
Analysts agree that resolving the status of the Abyei Area is one of the essential steps Sudan and South Sudan need to take to ensure long-term peace in the region.