Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Al-Bashir threatens South Sudan over Abyei

Sudan's President Al-Bashir reiterated Khartoum's claims to Abyei
Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir has threatened not to recognise the new country of South Sudan if it tries to claim the disputed border region of Abyei.
The South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to separate from the north in a January referendum, and will become independent on 9th July, 2011.

The referendum was part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 to end the decades-long civil war.

Abyei is a border region claimed by both sides. It was due to have its own referendum in January to decide whether to stay with the north or join the south, but it was delayed due to disagreements over who should be eligible to vote.

Both sides have increased their military presence in the border regions since and there have been numerous clashes, causing dozens of deaths.

The Dinka Ngok, a southern ethnic group, are permanent residents in Abyei, but the Arab, and Khartoum-backed, Misseriya population spends part of every year in Abyei as they move with their cattle, searching for pastures.

Al-Bashir accepted the results of the January referendum and had previously said he would be the first to recognize the new state. But in a speech on 26th April, he threatened to withhold recognition if the South continues to claim Abyei.

"I say it and repeat it for the millionth time, Abyei is northern and will remain northern," he declared during a speech in Southern Kordofan state, which sits close to Abyei and has a large Misseriya population.

The issue has arisen because South Sudan has recently released a new draft constitution, which lays claim to Abyei. The constitution was accepted at a constitutional endorsement meeting chaired by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir on 2nd May. It now needs to be passed by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Many within South Sudan have voiced opposition to the new constitution, which grants a new four year term to Kiir, arguing that they had not been adequately consulted.

The South Sudan government is also facing more violent opposition, and there are at least seven rebel militas fighting to overthrow the government, which they say serves only its own interests, ignoring minority tribes and rural communities.

Numerous talks over Abyei in recent years have amounted to little and both sides appear unwilling to compromise over ownership. Analysts say it could return the country to civil war, which has plagued it for the majority of its post-colonial period.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Sudan Tribune

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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