Sudan's AEC voices concern over delays in Abyei's referendum body and border demarcation

6 August 2010 (Sudan Tribune)

Sir Derek Plumbly, chairman of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC), a body tasked with monitoring and supporting the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), has raised concerns over delays in forming the Referendum Commission of Abyei region as well as the standstill to which the demarcation of north-south borders has come.

The CPA is the name given to the peace deal that ended two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan in 2005. Under the agreement, the predominantly Christian and animist south has been granted autonomous rule with a plebiscite due in January 2011 to decide whether to remain united with the north or secede to form an independent state.

In a speech he delivered before members of Sudan's National Assembly in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August, Plumbly spoke about a wide range of subjects regarding the CPA implementation. He said that the fact that Abyei Referendum Commission is yet to be appointed was "a matter of real concern," warning that this existing situation contributes to "increased insecurity" in the disputed region.

"The Abyei referendum is timed in the CPA to coincide precisely with that of the people of the South, and it is therefore a matter of real concern that the Abyei Referendum Commission has not yet been appointed." he said, adding that "the lack of forward movement on Abyei, despite the PCA ruling last year, is contributing to increased insecurity there."

The residents of the oil-rich region of Abyei, often called "the Kashmir of Sudan", are due to vote in a referendum simultaneous with that of the south to decide whether to join the latter or become part of the north.

Disputes over the region's boundaries led the CPA partners to resort to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which ruled that the region's boundaries be redefined.

Similarly, Plumbly has underlined the importance of political actions to finalize the demarcation of north-south borders.

"Action at the political level to resolve these outstanding questions without further delay, in addition to continuing technical work to survey and demarcate the line on the ground, is clearly now of the utmost importance," he told parliamentarians.

The demarcation of north-south borders, where most of Sudan's oil lies, remains stalled, stoking fears of a possible return to war should the south opts for secession.

In contrast, Plumbly expressed satisfaction with the popular consultation process in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, telling his audience that the AEC was impressed by "the evident seriousness with which the process is being taken locally; and by the quality of the partnership between the parties in both states."

Plumbly also said he had "no doubt" that the remaining provisions of the CPA could be completed before the end of the Interim Period, explaining that his confidence stems from his belief that "nobody in Sudan wants to see a return to conflict" and that he was "struck by the extent to which mutual self-interest and interdependence point in the positive direction".

Plumbly concluded his address by stating that the remaining phases in the CPA would "require accelerated effort, an enhanced intensity of engagement and a renewed spirit of accommodation".


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