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article imageSudan and South Sudan continue negotiations

By Raluca Besliu     Oct 27, 2012 in Politics
On September 27, 2012, the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement allowing oil exports to resume and created a demilitarized zone along their contested border.
Nevertheless, the situation immediately deteriorated in South Sudan, as especially the inclusion of the „Mile 14 Area” in the demilitarized zone was contested. The decision was greeted with street protests in Juba and the disapproval of several politicians.
In particular, the governor of Northern Bahr al Ghazal State, from which the „Mile 14 Area” would be taken away, expressed his opposition to this decision and emphasized that he would fight against such a measure. Still, the Sudan-South Sudan agreement including that provision was ratified by the SPLM-dominated parliament.
However, on the issue of Abyei, a 10,000 sq km oil-rich territory, and five other border areas, which both countries claim, Sudan and South Sudan have failed to reach an agreement thus far.
South Sudan preferred that the Abyei issue be resolved via a referedum, while Sudan wanted a political solution.
As a result, on October 24, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) announced its support for organizing a referendum in Abyei in October 2013, if Sudan and South Sudan are unable to reach an agreement within the upcoming six weeks, under the facilitation of the AU High-Level Implementation panel (AUHIP). The council has been convened in order to assess the progress made by the two countries since signing the September agreement.
Abyei has remained a contentious region since South Sudan proclaimed its independence in July 2011, after a violent two-decade war ended with a peace agreement in 2005.
Previous attempts to hold a referendum were unsuccessful due to the fact the two sides were unable to agree on the criteria on which to determine eligible voters. The region represents the grazing grounds for the Misseriya tribes supporting the North, while the settled population, the Ngok Dinka living there, consider themselves South Sudanese.
The AUHIP has advanced a draft proposal to the AUPSC suggesting that the voting right would be given to both Ngok Dinka as well as other Sudanese residing in the area, which would include the Misseriya. The sole precondition for voting set in the proposal would be residence within Abyei.
The AUHIP recognized that the referendum would undoubtedly leave one of the parties displeased and could lead to a renewal of conflict. It, therefore, suggested five solutions that could be reached through negotiations within the upcoming six weeks: transferring Abyei to South Sudan; Sudanese retention of the region; the region’s temporary A.U.-U.N. administration; Abyei’s partition with a soft border; and handing over of Abyei to South Sudan with special provisions for the Misseriya tribes.
However, the council also announced that should the two parties fail to agree on a mutually convenient solution, its referendum proposal would become final and binding and that it would seek the UN Security Council endorsement for it.
More about Sudan, south sudan, United Nations
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