SUDAN: Abyei under threat of invasion

Namibia’s relations with South Sudan go back to the period of armed
struggle. We do not have the all the information, but we do know that
the Late Dr John Garang and Namibia’s Founding Father Sam Nujoma, were
friends, probably due to their shared experience of liberation
struggle. We also know that Namibia’s SWAPO government sent weapons to
the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and that one consignment was
seized on landing in Mombasa by the Kenyan Government of Arap Moi. The
next consignment reached South Sudan. A number of Southern Sudaneses
came to Namibia, lead by Scopas Dima, the agriculturalist,  in the
early 2000s. Some of these joined the staff of tertiary institutions,
like Abate, who taught at Neudamm and is now Vice-Chancellor at the
University of Juba in Juba, South Sudan. Others such as John Pangech
and Killa Janda obtained undergraduate degrees, before returning home
to serve their government, after the signature of the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement in 2005. By 2006 all had left. One is now a Minister
for Veterinary Affairs, another is a Regional Governor.

South Sudan through its Southern African Representative Liaison Office
in Pretoria has sent missions to Namibia, the last of which was
received by HE the Founding Father in his office in Windhoek in
December 2010, which was lead by a Southern diplomat assisted by a
Darfuri, who participated In the Pan African Workshop held at the
University of Namibia.

International attention has tended to focus more on Abyei than any
other issue related to South Sudan, because of its strategic location
across the border of North and South Sudan and because of its large
oil deposits. The three areas, Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue
Nile fall either within the area known as South Sudan or adjoin that
area. The people of these three locations either fought with the Sudan
Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) or were supportive of it’s struggle.
That was why when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed
in 2005, special Protocol arrangements were made for the three areas,
failing which the people in these areas risked being prejudiced if
they were lumped with the North.

 The Abyei,  Nuba Mountains and  Blue Nile Protocols of the CPA,
provided for referendae permitting the people to choose their destiny,
either to join the South or to remain in greater Sudan, so called. No
such referendum was held in the three areas. Whereas in Abyei there
were clearly vested interests in the oil situated in the area, the
same could not be said for the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile. In
the latter  areas there was an absence of will by Khartoum to possibly
lose two more territories to Southern Sudan, which resulted in it’s
foot dragging. In the euphoria of the emergence of the new state of
Southern Sudan on the 9th July 2011, one should not lose sight of the
fate of the people of The Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and should
always remember Khartoum’s record of broken agreements.

The Ngok Dinka have been living in the area known as Abyei, straddling
the border between Southern  Sudan and the rest of the country, since
time immemorial. These Dinka people are part of the larger Dinka
group, who form the majority ethnic group in Southern Sudan, followed
by the Neur and  other ethnicities. It is often said that Southern
Sudan will break up due to the multiplicity of ethnic groups. There is
no good evidence for such utterances. True, Khartoum like the former
racist South Africa, used ethnicity to divide and rule. However since
the signing of the CPA  ethnic conflict has been in abeyance, although
Khartoum inspired militia disturbance has been  in evidence. It is
also said that instability in Southern Sudan will create a contagion
in East Africa. Here again such an opinion is speculative. Rather what
is happening is the gradual pacification of East Africa, with peace
more in evidence in, for instance, Uganda, than has been seen in the
last quarter century.

Whereas the Ngok Dinka are sedentary, the Misseriya are cattle
herders. Whereas the Ngok Dinka consider themselves to be Africans,
the Misseriya are Arabised Africans. The Misseriya are found in
Kordofan in Central Sudan as a nomadic community, which grazes cattle
and goats in the  Afro-Arab Borderlands. They graze their animals in
Abyei during the dry season  and return Northwards to Kordofan when
the wet season arrives in Abyei. During the North/South conflict the
Misseriya acquired weapons as a means to protect their cattle and as a
 dissuasive device to access grazing and water points, predominantly
areas under the territorial boundary of Southern Sudan.

The principles adopted in the CPA define Abyei as ‘the area of the
nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905’. According
to the CPA ‘ the Misseriya and other nomadic peoples retain their
“traditional” rights to graze cattle and move across the territory of
Abyei’. Today these ‘traditional ‘ rights are said by Khartoum to
include the right to vote in the Abyei Referendum.

Post CPA deadlock over Abyei appeared , not with the clash of the two
armies in May 2008, but immediately the peace agreement was signed.
The Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) of international experts,
including notables such as Douglas Johnson and Shadrack Gutto, was to
define the boundary of Abyei. The Report of the ABC was rejected by
the National Congress Party (NCP) of President Bashir in Khartoum.
Your author was present when that Report was subsequently presented in
the Southern Sudan National Assembly in Juba. Such was the foot
dragging of the NCP on CPA implementation, that the SPLM pulled out of
the Government of National Unity (GONU) in October 2007. Abyei was one
of the sticking issues.

The NCP was unwilling to agree on the form of an interim
Administration for Abyei during the transitional period. Juba then
appointed Eduardo Lino Wuor Abyei as the Administrator, to facilitate
the return of Southern Sudanese to the area. As a reaction Khartoum
started arming militias and other extravagant behaviour, which
ultimately lead to the armed clash of May 2008. On the 8th June 2008
Khartoum and Juba agreed that the differences over the ABC Report be
handed to the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague  for
binding and final settlement, which Court cut out of Abyei  some 40%
of the area in the north and East. Whereas Juba accepted the result,
the Misseriya did not, creating obstacles for the technical committee
tasked to demarcate areas which the Court identified as belonging to
the Ngok Dinka.

Deng Arop from the SPLM and head of Abyei’s administration complains
that the nomadic Missiriya ethnic group have begun to settle 75,000
people in the north of Abyei, to change the demography of the region
and influence the vote. Arop estimates there were some 100,000
original Abyei residents excluding the Missiriya.

President Bashir informed the Misseriya that they would vote in the
Abyei Referendum. Thereafter the NCP was unable to agree with the SPLM
on proposals for the Abyei Referendum. The NCP insisted that the
Misseriya vote in the Abyei Referendum. The SPLM then went to the
streets of Khartoum to demonstrate against the delay in implementation
of the Court’s decision , during which it’s leaders,  Pagan Amum and
Yasir Saeed Arman were beaten up. After the demonstration the
necessary laws for both the Southern and Abyei Referendae were
approved by the Khartoum National Assembly. These would take place on
the same date. However the composition of the Abyei Referendum
Commission could not be agreed upon by the two parties, resulting in
no Referendum being held in Abyei in January 2011. The NCP was
insisting that the Misseriya sit in the Commission, despite they
having no voting rights in the Referendum. Ethiopian President Meles
Zenawi was requested to arbitrate after talks failed in Addis Ababa on
the composition of the Commission. Khartoum terms for an agreement
were :-
Consideration of the potential economic collapse of the North, since
60% of the national oil revenue comes from the South
That the SPLM accept some responsibility for the national debts of the
Sudan after  it becomes self-governing
That the USA remove Sudan from the list of sponsors of terrorism and
That the USA assist with the waiver of the indictment of President
Bashir by the International Criminal Court
Abyei is held hostage by the NCP, not out of concern for rights of the
Misseriya, but due to economic and other concerns. The SPLM remains
committed to ensuring the Misseriya access to grazing and water  and
in the absence of agreement the people of Abyei will find the solution
to outstanding problems, in co-operation with the international
co-signatories to the CPA.


B.F.Bankie, Windhoek,16/2/11
Sudan Sensitisation Project (SSP)

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