An AFP piece today carried an ominous statement by Bashir before parliament. The President reportedly said “despite our commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement we will not accept an alternative to unity”. The President made no details as to the consequences of the expected yes secession voting in the coming referendum. The statement I suppose comes in tune with Bashir’s supposed disappointment at his deputy’s public support of secession. The corrective though is that Bashir has made a habit of both making fiery statements and eventual retreat. In NCP discourse there is a constant discrepancy between the outpourings, usually fierce and fiery, intended for internal consumption and popular mood management and positions on the bargaining table behind closed doors. The media messages intended for the international community to chew on are a third category, also quite distinct.
Combining Kiir’s statements and demand for UN troops to guard the border zone between North South together with the shared accusation of SPLM and SAF over border encroachments, the declared failure of the American mediated SPLM-NCP Addis Ababa talks over Abyei, and this latest Bashir statement it is easy to conclude that the whole North-South peace arrangement is on the verge of collapse. On a more serene note, and washing out the ‘Clooney’ effect, the ruling partners are still talking, with more of a media scare involved, but they are still bargaining it out. The talks on Abyei are planned to resume end of October with a view to homing Abyei into the larger political trade arrangements between the two partners, referendum and post-referendum concerns. Two proposals have been tabled in regards to Abyei, the more probable involving a ‘re-division’ into a Northern Misseriya Abyei and a Southern Ngok Abyei, which is to say the least the modus operandi of the whole CPA battle-out. Although media quotes of war ready Misseriya and Ngok are many it is important to interpret them in their appropriate context. Both the Ngok and the Misseriya lack leverage over their respective patrons, SPLM and NCP. In fact, both groups have all reason to fear a sell out. The SPLM that supposedly would not budge on the initial Abyei Borders Commission report eventually accepted a re-drawing of the map by the PCA. The NCP that promised the Misseriya the delivery of Abyei in whole whatever the costs was more concerned with retaining oil fields than securing grazing land for the pastoralist survivalists. In threatening war Ngok and Misseriya are also seeking to pressure their patrons into more resolute bargaining positions.
The joint SPLM-NCP statement in conclusion of the failed Addis Ababa round carried an agreement “to examine Abyei in the context of a larger comprehensive approach to the upcoming referenda and post-referenda arrangements”. Frankly, I don’t blame the Ngok and Misseriya. The fate of Abyei might well be sealed with much beyond Abyei.