South Africa has expressed concerns about violence in Sudan’s Abyei region, calling on parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to address the contentious post-referendum issues. The Department of International Relations said it was imperative that the two parties dealt with issues including border demarcation, the status of Abyei and the sharing of resources.
On Monday, there was reported looting and burning in Abyei, just days after the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) took control of the region, the state BuaNews agency reported. The recent upsurge in violence has displaced large numbers of civilians, possibly hundreds of thousands, according to the UN mission in that country.
This move had been condemned by the Security Council as a breach of the 2005 CPA that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan. “The increased tensions over Abyei between the two parties to the CPAand the use of violence threaten to derail the post-referendum negotiations and introduce a dire period of uncertainty as South Sudan prepares for independence,” Pretoria said.
It called on the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to cease hostilities, while also reaffirming and honouring their commitments to the CPA protocol on Abyei and the Kadugli agreement. The UN has sent additional peacekeepers to boost patrolling activities, which have already stepped up in that region.
The country is still fragile following January’s referendum which gave birth to Africa’s 54th state.
But Abyei remains the most contentious sticking point between north and south following a two-decade civil war that left some two million people dead. Both North and South Sudan want oil-producing Abyei for political, commercial and highly-charged emotional reasons.
Unlike the rest of the south, the Abyei population is a mix of Arabs and Africans and its residents are split over the issue of separation from Khartoum. Residents were to vote on a referendum to determine the disposition of their town at the same time as the rest of the south. But, fuelled by their conflicting interests, they could not agree on how to run the poll, which did not thereafter take place. Leaders are still trying to find a solution for the oil rich region.