A senior member of the Ngok Dinka community in the UK is calling for urgent international intervention in the oil-rich Abyei area following revelations that northern Arab Misseriya chiefs have established an alternative government for the region, in clear violation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan. The alternative regime, which is due to become operational on 25 December, includes a governor, deputy governor, legislative council, mayor, defence council and head of security. Speaking to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Dr Zachariah Bol Deng, a former politician and prominent Abyei elder, described this development as a “coup” and commented that “this amounts to a declaration of war against Abyei.”
The oil-rich region is increasingly being viewed as the flashpoint for renewed war between northern and southern Sudan, with tensions rising in the run-up to the area’s critical referendum on self-determination, which is scheduled for 9 January 2011.
The plebiscite to determine whether Abyei remains part of the northern state of South Kordofan, or is returned to Warrap in Greater Bahr el Ghazal, is to take place in tandem with South Sudan’s referendum on self-determination. The Abyei plebiscite is a key part of the CPA, which brought an end to the civil war that had ravaged the country since 1983. However, while preparations for the southern referendum are progressing, disagreements over voter eligibility have stalled the Abyei referendum process.
Dr Bol Deng warned: “If war breaks out it will be genocide, and it is likely even to derail the southern referendum.” He stressed that the situation in Abyei “could make or break the peace and stability of the whole country.”
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “ It is vital that the Abyei Referendum Commission is formed as soon as possible, and that in accordance with the Abyei Protocol and international arbitration, voting rights are limited to the Ngok Dinka and permanent residents. Failure to implement this key component of the CPA puts the entire process at risk and could contribute to a renewed outbreak of war. The northern Sudanese government must also make every effort to ensure that the Misseriya disbands its parallel administration in order to avert the potential return of civil conflict.”
Campaigners for human rights in Sudan are asking readers to join them in the following appeal letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague MP urging Khartoum to keep to peace commitments it has made.
Dear Mr Hague,
Until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement expires in July 2011, the UK has a unique opportunity to exert pressure on the Sudanese government to abide by the various peace deals it has signed, the conventions to which it is a party, and to its many promises to the international community. I write to urge you to use Britain’s leverage to hold Khartoum to its commitments to stop bombing Darfur, to disarm its proxies, the Janjaweed, and to allow UNAMID and humanitarian agencies to function without intimidation or harassment.
By signalling to Khartoum and to the world that we will overlook ongoing human rights abuses in Darfur for the sake of a referendum that may or may not secure peace in South Sudan, we compromise Britain’s reputation as a promoter and protector of human rights. We cannot be “candid friends,” in the words of Henry Bellingham, with a government responsible for genocide.
In your excellent speech on British values in September, you said: “There will be no downgrading of human rights under this Government,” adding that, “Where human rights abuses go unchecked our security suffers, and our international influence will bleed away unless we maintain our international standing.”
War still rages in Darfur, and the basic human rights and civil liberties of citizens throughout Sudan continue to be undermined by the Sudanese authorities. In line with your vision of UK foreign policy, I encourage the UK to hold the Sudanese government accountable for its commitments on the CPA and ensure that enduring peace, human rights and justice for the victims of the Darfur conflict are not forgotten.
The people of Sudan deserve to see their country achieve peace and economic development. As you wrote while in opposition about Darfur: “Ethnic cleansing, killing and rape. We’ve been here before. In the Balkans and in Rwanda. We said never again – but it is happening all over again. The international community must now come together and bring an end to this killing.” I note your view, expressed in November at the UN Security Council, that now is the defining moment for Sudan, and urge you to use the UK’s leverage accordingly.
(insert name here)