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Official says Abyei referendum not possible, draws criticism

media Misseriya tribesmen talk to Nour (centre), the head of the Misseriya delegation, … Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

A vote in January’s referendum on the contested Sudanese region of Abyei could be delayed, a senior National Congress Party official said on Thursday. Other members of the NCP have told RFI that this is not a unanimous decision, while the comments have not been popular with southern Sudanese politicians and civil society.

“We have reached agreement that it is not possible to hold the vote in Abyei on 9 January,” Al-Dirdiri Mohammed Ahmed, of the ruling National Congress Party, told journalists. “The vote will run into a number of problems if it goes ahead on that date.”

The vote on Abyei is set to take place at the same time as the referendum on southern independence. Abyei would decide whether to remain in the north or join the south.

Other members of the NCP do not necessarily agree with Ahmed, who is responsible for the Abyei file.

Q&A - Rabie Abdelaati, senior member of the NCP 14/10/2010 - by Alexandra Brangeon Listen

“This is his view according to the difficulties they have faced during the negotiation, between the National Congress Party and the SPLM [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] in Addis Ababa, regarding the vote in the referendum to decide the destiny of Abyei,” said Rabie Abdelaati, a senior member of the NCP.

This comes just one day after talks in Ethiopia broke down over the issue of Abyei.

“This is a view of the delegation, but it is not a decision by the NCP and I can say that still the negotiation is going on between the two parties,” Abdelaati told RFI. “There will be a round of talks which will be carried out later in November so as to agree on a resolution on this point.”

Ahmed’s comments are not popular with the government of southern Sudan.

“To me, he must have made an agreement with him, himself alone. But not with the people of Abyei and not with the people of southern Sudan about the referendum in Abyei,” says south Sudan’s Internal Affairs Minister Gier Chuang.

“What we basically know and even what we presented in Addis Ababa was that the referendum of Abyei be conducted on the same date, 9 January, as southern Sudan, there is nothing left on that, no more on that,” Chuang told RFI.

Q&A - Rou Manyiel, civil society representative, Abyei 14/10/2010 - by Laura Angela Bagnetto Listen

Civil society in Abyei echoed Chuang’s reaction.

“I don’t know with whom they have reached agreement,” said Rou Manyiel, who represents civil society organisations in Abyei.

“If it is with SPLM, it will be up to SPLM to respond to that,” Manyiel told RFI. “If it is otherwise postponed or delayed, we are not part of it, and I think SPLM can and will not accept that.”

Southern President Salva Kiir said on Wednesday he did not want Abyei to become a “potential trigger for conflict again between the south and the north”.

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