Sudan’s peace partners trade accusations over Abyei

April 3, 2008 (Sudan Tribune)

Official from the two partners in the government of national unity are trading accusations of military build-up and responsibility of recent tension over Abyei area.

Since the arrival of Edward Lino, the SPLM administrator to Abyei on March 26 with five "Cabinet secretaries" the row over the oil rich area between the National Congress Party and the SPLM began to take a new dimension particularly following the failure of the presidency meeting last Tuesday to contain the escalation.

Today the National Congress Party reiterated its demand of SPLM administration withdrawal from Abyei accusing the SPLA of military build-up in the disputed area; while the SPLM accused the Sudan Armed Forces of mobilising to attack.

The NCP responsible of Abyei file, Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmad, told the pro-NCP Sudanese Media Center that the political partnership with the SPLM will be the victim of the establishment of the SPLM administration in Abyei. He further said SPLA troops must redeploy south to the 1956 border.

The SMC in the same report accused the SPLA of military build-up in the northern Upper Nile region. It said that an infantry battalion arrived to Mlbuq area to reinforce the SPLA capacities along the border strip. Further another infantry battalion has been moved to Kharasana area from Fariang besides troops transferred from Wau to Northern Bahr El-Ghazal.

On the other side, Edward Lino reaffirmed the arrival of 222 soldiers to Abyei town on Tuesday. He further said that more forces deployed north of the area’s presumed border on Wednesday.

"I am in Abyei and yesterday they brought more troops. We think they are planning to attack," he told AFP by telephone. "They are reinforcing troops in addition to those brought on Tuesday. They are amassing in both directions."

Nonetheless, the interim commander of the Sudan Armed Forces in Abyei denied the claims.

"No, no, no. This is wrong," Brigadier General Muntasir Sabir said. "We have some forces that were deployed to protect the oil fields only and now they are starting to go back," he said.

"We signed a peace agreement; we have no intention to (attack)," he said.

The NCP says that the SPLA deployment in the area confirms SPLM intention to control the border strip and not abide by the decision of redeployment southern border 1/1/1956.

It further claims that the SPLA plans to refuse, during an expected meeting of the Joint Defence Border, the withdrawal of its troops from the border areas which SPLA controls in the north under the pretext of non-demarcation of the border in addition to demanding the withdrawal of armed forces from areas in southern Kordofan and Kharasana, in Abyei.

On the other side, the SPLM said it is losing patience with what it sees as the failure of President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party to implement a protocol for governing this oil-rich zone during the interim period.

The SPLM deputy speaker of the federal parliament Atem Garang denied that his party had received any formal letter from the NCP demanding the withdrawal of SPLM administration from Abyei.

Garang further said that Lino is not a governor to administrate Abyei but a political supervisor to spread the culture of peace and development in the area, which was deprived of the services of three continuous years.

Since last December clashes between the SPLA and Misseriya militia become very frequent. The SPLA accused the NCP of rearming the Arab nomads.

In 2011, Abyei will hold two referendums: one on whether to retain its special administrative status in north Sudan or be incorporated into the south; and if it chooses to joint the south then Abyei will take part in the referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan.

Abyei dispute has already shaken the peace deal once. Last October, southern cabinet ministers walked out of the unity government over a number of disputes, including Abyei — raising fears the peace could collapse.

In December 2007, the Sudanese presidency has decided to settle by itself the row over the oil rich region of Abyei while the other pending issues in the implementation of the 2005 peace agreement are referred to other committees.

Sudan president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir said that the NCP is committed to the Abyei Protocol only with the border of 1905. He further said the government is not concerned with Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) report and that the latter is of no value to them.

The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, last year proposed a set of "confidence-building measures" to SPLM leader Salva Kiir during his visit to Washington.

One of the proposals was that China, Saudi Arabia and the US would mediate between the NCP and SPLM to formulate a "package deal" to solve the impasse around Abyei and north-south border demarcation.


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