Al-Dirdiri Mohamed ِAhmed, the NCP negotiator sitting on the Abyei file announced two days ago that it is obviously not possible to hold the Abyei referendum on time, i.e. concurrently with the Referendum on 9th January. Notably al-Dirdiri stated that the two parties, NCP and SPLM, have agreed on this regard. Pagan Amum, who headed the SPLM delegation to the Addis Ababa talks on Abyei, responded describing the NCP’s position as dangerous and unacceptable. He nevertheless affirmed that the SPLM will not take the country back to war even if differences continue to provoke emotions of war. Amum was speaking from Juba, where he took part in the Southern parties’ conference, and where Salva Kiir similarly reiterated the SPLM’s refusal of war. In Khartoum the NCP’s Mustafa Osman Ismail, who had called a week or so ago for war preparations diluted his earlier remarks stating that the secession of Southern Sudan is possible, and that his government ‘works for peace but prepares for war’.
Even if they had not agreed in letter to the postponement of the Abyei referendum it is justified to assume that the SPLM considers in earnest the possibility of delay. Procrastination on Abyei, which Khartoum might well sell to the Misseriya as an option will however be more difficult to market to Dinka Ngok from Juba. In a press conference held in Khartoum on their return from Addis Ababa members of the Misseriya delegation stressed the point that their position had found the understanding of the American envoy Scott Gration. They reported presenting the envoy an 8 articles position paper that argues in essence with the concept of citizenship as promulgated in the Sudan’s Interim Constitution for the right of the Misseriya to share Abyei with Dinka Ngok including the right to vote in the coming referendum according to the clauses of the Elections Act (2010). Apparently the Misseriya’s argument was well taken. Luka Biong in Khartoum expressed his frustration at Grationate pressure on the SPLM. He noted “we felt that Gration was trying to satisfy the SPLM on the people’s account to safeguard the referendum”.
The Misseriya delegation in the aftermath of the Addis Ababa round voiced the demand for direct Misseriya-Ngok talks bypassing NCP and SPLM. With the wider political agenda hovering over Abyei in mind it may be of virtue to contemplate the fate of these communities in NCP-SPLM custody. Personally I trust the Misseriya and Ngok more with the industry of peace than the two parties. Mukhtar Babo Nimir, the Misseriya paramount chief, in the midst of angry language directed at NCP, SPLM and the PCA, correctly pointed out that Abyei remained an island of peace during the stretched-out war in Southern Sudan. It would a flagrant example of political incompetence if it turned to war in times of peace.