Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 1, 2013. Frustrated residents of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum on Thursday. A new Enough Project reportcontextualizes the Ngok Dinka community’s vote to join South Sudan and calls for the U.S. and the African Union to take immediate action to help determine Abyei’s final status.
The fate of Abyei is one of the most important issues left unresolved since South Sudan became an independent state in 2011. The region is home to the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, nomadic Arab herders, who migrate across the Abyei region twice a year. The two groups have lived there together in mutual interdependence, but a long history of unfulfilled promises for self-determination and the politicization of Abyei’s final status has raised tensions. In 2008 and 2011, Sudanese army attacks left towns burned to the ground, and resulted in the displacement of 120,000 people.
The report,”What Happens to a Dream Deferred” calls on the African Union to carry out its intended visit to the region, report on key findings, outline a clear timeline for a credible and internationally-sanctioned vote as called for in the African Union’s proposal, and hold Sudan to its existing wealth-sharing promises for Abyei.
Akshaya Kumar, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst, and co-author of the report, says, “The people of Abyei’s dreams have been deferred for too long. Unless the African Union makes it clear that it is willing to stand behind President Mbeki’s proposal, violence could once again seize the region.”
Over 99 percent of the Ngok Dinka who voted on the unilateral ballot expressed a desire to transfer the Abyei territory from Sudan’s sovereignty to South Sudanese control.The Misseriya tribe has now vowed to hold their own referendum to voice their desire to stay with Sudan.
Timothy May, Enough Project Field Researcher, and co-author of the report, says “The Sudanese government already owes both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya 2% of the region’s oil revenues since 2005. While they might not agree on the area’s final status, both groups can work together to push Khartoum to turn over those funds, which could help develop their communities.”
Neither Sudan nor South Sudan recognize the validity of the vote. The report authors explain that the Ngok Dinka’s unsanctioned vote is an expression of collective will and should be seen as a precursor to an internationally-recognized referendum for the disputed area.
John Prendergast, Enough Project Co-Founder, explains, “Abyei’s peace can be secured only by honoring the multiple past agreements allowing its residents to vote on their future. The UN peacekeeping mission led by Ethiopia acts as a deterrent to armed conflict, but they cannot stay forever. The international community must use this moment to support a lasting resolution.”
Read the full report, “What Happens to a Dream Deferred? The Case for Immediate African Union Action on Abyei”: http://www.enoughproject.org/files/What-Happens-to-a-Dream-Deferred.pdf