Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, January 2011
About 60 Killed in Sudan's Abyei Clashes
JUBA, Jan. 10, 2011, (Xinhua) --
More than 60 people have been killed in Sudan's disputed region of Abyei over the past three days in a series of clashes involving local Dinka police force and militia allegedly associated with the nomadic tribe of Misseria, a senior official of the Abyei Referendum Forum (ARF) told Xinhua Monday.
The casualties included about 40 from Misseria and 24 Ngok Dinka civilians in the clashes from Friday and Sunday, ARF acting Chairman Deng Mading said. "We are getting more reports of casualties and the figures are being updated as the fights are going on."
The Dinka forces captured two tanks in the color of the United Nations peacekeepers from the enemies on Saturday and handed them over to the southern army Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), he said. "We were checking the identity of the tanks."
The figure has not been confirmed by the United Nations. Reports over the cause of the violence are not clear with different reasons put forward by both sides.
The senior Misseria leader Hamdi al-Doudo was reported by Sudan Tribune as saying that the clashes were triggered by the SPLA moving up to 1,500 soldiers into the area, which the Arab nomads regarded as a route to grazing fields.
But Mading said the alleged reasons are "absolutely not right."
"Actually, the invading forces are moving 3,000 troops to Abyei, " he told Xinhua.
People in the oil-producing Abyei were promised a referendum on Jan. 9 on whether to join the north or south, but the plebiscite was postponed due to a dispute over whether the Misseria, who enter Abyei for a few months each year to graze cattle, should be given the right to vote.
Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has demanded the Misseria be allowed to vote, while the Sudan People's Liberation Movement which governs the south says that only the Dinka Ngok have the right to participate, thus leaving a thorny task to settle the region's future status through negotiations.
"Just as commitments were made for a southern Sudan referendum, so were binding commitments made for an Abyei referendum. We must have resolution of our status," Mading said.
"There is still time for Abyei," Mading said, "We call upon President Bashir and President Kiir to sit together and recommit themselves to the final resolution of Abyei which is provided for in the CPA."
Editor: Wang Guanqun
Sudan border clashes kill 36 as south votes: officials
Sun, Jan 9 2011
By Andrew Heavens
KHARTOUM | Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:29am EST
KHARTOUM (Reuters) -
At least 36 people have died in clashes between tribespeople and Arab nomads near Sudan's north- south border, leaders in the contested Abyei region said on Monday, on the second day of a vote on southern independence.
Analysts say the central region of Abyei is the most likely place for north-south tensions to erupt into violence during and after the vote, the climax of a troubled peace deal that ended decades of civil war.
Southerners are expected to vote to split from the mostly Muslim north, depriving Khartoum of most of its oil reserves.
Senior southern official Luka Biong official condemned the fighting and told Reuters both sides were still trying to settle their bitter dispute over the ownership of Abyei as part of a package of negotiations, including how the regions will share oil revenues and debt after a split.
In a separate more positive development, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told CNN on Monday Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had offered to take on all of the country's crippling debt if the south seceded.
The offer, if confirmed, would be a significant conciliatory gesture from Bashir and would lift a huge fiscal burden from the south in the early days of its expected independence.
Leading members of Abyei's Dinka Ngok tribe, linked with the south, accused Khartoum of arming the area's Arab Misseriya militias in clashes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and said they were expecting more attacks in days to come.
U.S. President Barack Obama this week warned both northern and southern leaders not to use proxy forces over the voting period, highlighting international concerns that both sides might be resorting to tactics used in past campaigns.
In another sign of tension, southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said two men -- a Ugandan and a northern army soldier -- were arrested with four boxes holding 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition in the southern capital Juba on Sunday night.
The northern army's spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khaled, on Monday denied any link to the ammunition or the clashes.
Observers said thousands of voters queued up for a second day of voting that continued peacefully across other areas of the south. The final results are expected by February 15, with preliminary results a week earlier.
"Yesterday I tried my best but it was too much for me. Queues were too long. People were too emotional. Everyone wants to be first to decide his destiny," said Salah Mohamed, waiting outside a booth on the outskirts of the southern capital Juba.
"Today I could vote but still as you can see the crowds are still there ... I think the commission might need to extend the voting days."
The referendum's organizing commission said 20 percent of registered southerners had already cast their vote. The turnout needs to be 60 percent for the result to be valid.
Factbox: Key facts about Sudan's disputed Abyei region
KHARTOUM | Sun Jan 9, 2011 5:31am EST
KHARTOUM (Reuters) -
Armed Arab nomads killed at least one person in a series of clashes in Sudan's contested Abyei region, stoking tensions at the start of an independence referendum in south Sudan, officials said on Sunday.
Here are some facts about the region which many fear could spark further north-south violence during and after the politically sensitive plebiscite.
Abyei sits on Sudan's ill-defined north-south border and is claimed by both halves of the country. In many ways it is a microcosm of all the conflicts that have split Sudan for decades -- an explosive mix of ethnic tension, ambiguous boundaries, oil and age-old suspicion and resentment.
Northerners and southerners fought hard over it during decades of civil war and have continued to clash there even after the 2005 peace deal that ended the war and set up the referendum.
Abyei contains rich pastureland, water and, after a recent re-drawing of its boundary, one significant oilfield -- Defra, part of a block run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a consortium led by China's CNPC.
It also has emotional, symbolic and strategic significance.
A number of leading figures from the south's dominant party the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) hail from the area. Many southerners see the fight for Abyei as an emblem of their long struggle against perceived oppression.
For several months a year, Abyei is also used by Arab Misseriya nomads -- a well-armed group that provided proxy militias for Khartoum during the north-south war.
The Misseriya claim centuries-old rights to use the land for their livestock and Khartoum will have to back them to the hilt if it wants to keep them as allies. Abyei's Dinka Ngok tribe, with its ethnic links to the south, also claims its own historical ownership rights.
Abyei currently has a special administrative status, governed by an administration made up of officials from the SPLM and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's northern National Congress Party (NCP). It is also watched over by Joint Integrated Units made up of northern and southern troops and police. In reality those units remain far from integrated and soldiers from both sides have been caught up in the fighting.
Abyei proved so intractable that it was left unresolved in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the north- south civil war.
Instead residents were promised their own January 9 referendum on whether to join the north or the south. Plans for that vote have been left in limbo after a series of bitter disputes -- chiefly over the position of Abyei's borders and over who counted as Abyei residents with the right to vote.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague came closest to solving the first in 2009 by re-drawing Abyei's boundaries, ceding several other key oilfields to the north. The SPLM and the NCP accepted the ruling but the Misseriya rejected it saying it still put too much of their pastureland inside Abyei. They have resisted official efforts to demarcate the new border.
The Dinka Ngok and Misseriya also remain at loggerheads over who gets to vote. The Dinka say only that a handful of settled Misseriya tradespeople count as residents. The Misseriya are demanding equal voting rights to the Dinka.
In the absence of a separate Abyei referendum, northern and southern leaders have promised to hammer out another settlement backed by mediation from the African Union and Washington. Various suggestions - including one that would cut Abyei in half, have been rejected outright by one side or the other.
Abyei residents threatened to hold their own referendum if the official plebiscite did not take place but that has so far not emerged.
WHY IT MATTERS
If north and south Sudan do eventually go back to war, it could easily be Abyei that sees the first fighting. Any return to north-south conflict would have a disastrous impact on the nine fragile countries that surround Sudan.
A settlement of Abyei would clear a huge stumbling block to Sudan's tortuous peace process and allow the sides to concentrate on equally explosive and unresolved issues, like how they would share out their oil revenues after a split.
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