Abyei: No longer at home

By Deng Vanang

November 1, 2013 (SSNA) — Rejected and no longer at home is the oil rich region of Abyei long disputed between South Sudan and Sudan. The region recently engaged in a controversial referendum vote two countries no longer interested in. Falling four years behind scheduled 2011 referendum, Abyei finally stood up and dusted itself off to reclaim its denied identity last Sunday.  The referendum was then included in Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA to take place side by side with that of Southern Sudan years ago but never materialized.

This is due to a host of reasons such as sharing of its oil revenue, deliberately delayed border demarcation, sabotage to form joint administration between indigenous Ngok Dinka and Miseriaya Arab nomadic tribe. All these hurdles put paid to the stalemate. Fed up with repeated delays the Ngok Dinka of Abyei took the plunge at long last by going ahead with their referendum despite mutual refusal by two nation states that both claim them.

Current inter-state interests between Sudan and South Sudan have poured water so called on Abyei’s burning quest to be part of the latter it left in 1905. With 99 point something percent referendum votes Abyei has strongly cast its eyes on motherland, South Sudan it is homesick of rejoining. But the result faces loud and clear negative voices from the Sudan and not least the Misyeria who fell left out of the referendum they wanted to be part against the Abyei’s protocol enshrined in an already obsolete CPA that says it is only Ngok Dinka to vote.

Caught between the hard place and the rock is South Sudan which is grappling with a prospect of renewed cut of oil flow, its main source of revenue, if it recognizes the referendum its new found partner Sudan has rejected. For the referendum to get legitimizes both countries must recognize it. Absence of which makes it more of a symbolic gesture that will only increase tension in the region with possible renewal of an open conflict between the two rival ethnic groups.

In South Sudan, Abyei rejected referendum will certainly have its own repercussions that will kill numerous political careers.  It will sneak into ruling SPLM’S party politics that pits the Chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit against his principal deputy Dr. Riek Machar. The Abyei people and greater Padang community will likely pin their hope on Dr. Machar’s future Presidency if controversial referendum shall see the light after this long and dark tunnel of hopelessness. Machar has so far voiced his unreserved support for Abyei referendum as Kiir not only coaches public media not to air anything about Abyei but also officially rejects the unilateral referendum through his government’s official spokesman, Michael Makuei Lueth. Than sees his beleaguered government falls apart due to lack of money, Kiir has embarked on a tortoise journey of no return just for now in choosing oil over Abyei. He sees Abyei as a long term crisis that will be resolved later. His government is suspected to return to Abyei file when it finally relocates oil pipelines, which the Sudan uses to blackmail it over Abyei ownership right, to East Africa. But that is a long way to go when Abyei’s issue will have been already exploited by his opponents in the 2015 elections. Unless he successfully shifts the 2015 goal posts to give him more space for maneuver, Abyei shall cast along shadow over his government and future legacy.

Deng Vanang is a journalist and Executive member of the South Sudan’s leading opposition the SPLM-DC. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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