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Why Abyei Oil will Make or Break the South Sudan Independence

12 January 2011 12 January 2011 Tags: No Comment Print This Post Print This Post

There has been hype over the destiny of Abyei region in the January 9th referendum of South Sudan in which South Sudan will vote to either secede from Sudan or remain in the United Sudan.

The major talking points over this issue in the referendum have been the unresolved issue over the oil rich territory of Abyei.

Recently the United States administration suggested for the first time that uncertainty still looms over Abyei even as January 9th Referendum is a few days away.

The US which has been a key player in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in a resigned tone called upon the north and south to consider an alternative in the face of an impasse likely to stampede the long awaited Referendum.

The CPA which ended the bloodbath that spanned over two decades provided for the referendum as the climax of the transition period.

The referendum will essentially touch the issue of secession of the south but will most importantly inevitably decide whether Abyei and the oil resources of its surrounding areas remain part of north Sudan or join an autonomous or independent south.

In this article, we introduce the Abyei region.

Although there has been historical ties between the Dinka Ngok and the Misseriya, although usually not mentioned the standing unresolved issue lies in the natural resource; oil in Abyei region.

The Abyei territory is defined as the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905 and as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to a two decade war between the South (predominantly Christians and African traditional religion) and the North (predominantly Moslem Arabs), the Misseriya and other nomadic peoples retained their traditional rights to graze cattle and move across the territory of Abyei.

Abyei “is a county and former district of South Kurdufan, Sudan, that is considered an historical bridge between northern and Southern Sudan.” On the map of Sudan itself, Abyei is a mere spot in the middle of the country, but because of its oil reserves, its importance is far beyond its size.

Abyei is Sudan’s main oil producing region and by 2003, was responsible for over one-third of Sudan’s crude oil production. But the reserve has depleted since then and because of that, production volumes have reportedly declined.

While nothing has been done to address that issue, the fight for control has escalated and such that a civil war may result. There are two groups critical to the success of ending any Sudan Abyei regional conflict, the Misseriya tribe and the Ngok Dinka. The Misseriya tribe is reported to be aligned with the North Sudanese and the Ngok Dinka are joined with the South Sudanese, thus forming the perfect split.

The current referendum on the future of the region gives the Ngok Dinka voting rights; really all groups should have voting rights.

While the relations between the Misseriya tribe and the Ngok Dinka have been historically amicable, both have been used as the tools of Sudan leaders with no one suggesting joint control, but always some effort that seemed to favor one group over the other. The most logical solution is to achieve full voting rights for all in the region, and shared revenues from oil production between north and south Sudan. Previously, oil profits were directed toward the North in a kind of power-grab.

Important Provisions of CPA on Abyei

Net oil revenues from Abyei will be divided six ways during the Interim Period:

The National Government Fifty percent (50 %);

The Government of Southern Sudan Forty-Two percent (42%);

Bahr el Ghazal region Two percent (2%);

Western Kordofan Two percent (2 %);

Locally with the Ngok Dinka Two percent (2%);

and locally with the Misseriya people Two percent (2%);

End of Interim Period

Simultaneously with the referendum for southern Sudan, the residents of Abyei will cast a separate ballot. The proposition voted on in the separate ballot will present the residents of Abyei with the following choices, irrespective of the results of the southern referendum: That Abyei retain its special administrative status in the north; That Abyei be part of Bahr el Ghazal. International monitors will be deployed to Abyei to ensure full implementation of these agreements.

By Mugume D. Rwakaringi
Mugume D. Rwakaringi, sent this, his analysis of the Sudan Referendum published in Nile Focus, which is not available online. Rwakarinigi is also a radio reporter for the Voice of America’s Sudan Focus.

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