ADDIS TALKS SET DATE FOR ABYEI REFERNDUM
The ongoing talks between South Sudan and the erstwhile slave masters in Khartoum, held in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the African Union, have finally produced a tangible result. The long overdue and deliberately obstructed referendum on the future of Abyei, something the Khartoum regime is mortally afraid of to let happen, has now been set for October 2013. Notably have Southern demands been met under pressure from the AU to clearly define those able to participate, namely people who lived in Abyei three years prior to the CPA being signed in January 2005. This will effectively rule out attempts by the regime in Khartoum to drive out indigenous populations as is happening in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two more states with aspirations to join South Sudan to escape the yoke of Khartoum, and stuff the state with Northern voters.
According to the valid maps on Independence from Britain, and according to even older maps, Abyei was always part of the South, inhabitated by the Dinka Ngok tribe, with the Northern nomads, the Misseriya only migrating in and out of the area while following pastures for their cattle but not becoming resident until so directed by the regime to attempt change the demographic goal posts in the state.
It has also been agreed that the oil production will be more equitably shared with the regime in Khartoum getting 50 percent while 30 percent will be available for infrastructure and development projects inside Abyei and a further 20 percent be given to immediate neighbours like South Kordofan.
Conduct of the referendum will likely be vested in the UN mission to Abyei known as UNISFA, to ensure impartiality and give greater confidence in the verified outcome of the vote.
Both countries had come to armed exchanges a few months ago when incursions by Khartoums airforce into the South from bases in Abyei were repeatedly launched before the South in a show of strength drove the Northern army out of the oilfields and for some days symbolically liberated them before under AU guidance eventually returning to the South proper. Khartoums policy of burned earth in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei led to tens of thousands of indigenous African people fleeing from the advance of the militias used by Khartoum to do their dirty work for them, migrating into the South Sudan and creating a major humanitarian crisis there, especially after refugee camps were also targeted for aerial bombings by Khartoums airforce planes.
Further details on agreements reached or any remaining disagreements, like border demarcation, also obstructed by Khartoum in a vain attempt to create tension and hold on to territory liberated by the independence vote in the South early last year, could not be obtained but developments will be monitored to report updates as and when available.
The avenue of a negotiated agreement under African Union auspices has been largely welcomed by South Sudans neighbours which stood by Juba during the period of troubles and when in particular oil production had been stopped to halt the constant large scale theft of Southern oil enroute to Port Sudan. Returning to peace also means further progress in rolling out infrastructure and embarking on development, as a major tourism legislative workshop to be held in Juba in October will demonstrate, a sign that the resumption of the oil exports has resulted in almost instant resumption of other activities which had to be frozen due to lack of funding. Watch this space.