Abyei: What if Sudan’s Bashir continues defying the International Community?
By Luka Biong Deng
On 5th December, the six weeks given by the AU to Sudan and South Sudan to build consensus on the AU Proposal on the final status of Abyei will expire. Also the period of the two weeks given to the two countries to agree on the process and mechanism for resolving the disputed and claimed border areas has expired on 7th November. The AU Peace and Security Council may convene its next meeting on 14th December to endorse the AU Panel proposals on the final status of Abyei area and mechanism for resolving the disputed and claimed border areas. On the basis of its communiqué on 24th October, the AU Council is expected to endorse these proposals and to forward them to the UN Security Council for endorsement and enforcement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. On the basis of its Resolution 2046 and its precedent of respecting regional solutions, the UN Security will most likely have unified position in endorsing these proposals.
Aware of the diplomatic consequences of the failure to reach consensus on Abyei proposal and border, the regime in Khartoum, instead of engaging with the South, opted to intensify diplomatic campaign to contain these issues at the level of AU. Bashir sent a passionate letter to all presidents and heads of state of all members of the AU Peace and Security Council to undo its decisions in its communiqué of 24th October on Abyei and border and to be given more time. In fact the essence of the AU Roadmap and UN Security Council Resolution 2046 was to put an end to the endless negotiations between the two countries.
Equally, this diplomatic campaign waged by Bashir to undo the decisions taken by the AU over Abyei and border is not only inconsistent with the principles of the AU Constitutive Act but it shows clear disrespect to the members of the AU Peace and Security Council. This diplomatic campaign also accentuates the contempt of Bashir of Africans. This attitude was shown clearly during the last summit between Salva and Bashir in Addis Ababa, when one of Bashir’s aides on Abyei insulted Africans with racial utterance in presence of the former presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Burundi. This behaviour is not surprising as it is consistent with the implicit description of Bashir of the South Sudanese as slaves. It is a real paradox that the very person who scorns Africans is now moving with a letter from Bashir to convince African leaders to reverse their decisions. It needs to be seen whether the African leaders will reward this racist regime in Khartoum by changing their minds in the next meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council over Abyei.
While the regime in Khartoum is busy with its diplomatic campaign, the South sees the only way of resolving the pending issues of Abyei and border is to engage with Khartoum. President Salva extended invitation to President Bashir to visit Juba for a summit to resolve the pending issues and to effect the implementation of the nine (9) agreements. A high ministerial committee was set up for the reception of Bashir in Juba. President Salva made a phone call to Bashir in an effort to resolving the unjustified condition put by Sudan to allow the South to export its oil through Sudan. President Salva offered earlier to mediate between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-North for effecting the implementation of June 2011 Agreement on the political partnership between National Congress Party (NC) and SPLM-North.
With the issue of voters eligibility in Abyei referendum being satisfactory resolved in the AU Proposal on Abyei, President Salva accepted the nominations of the Government of Sudan for the positions of Deputy Chief Administrator and the Speaker of Abyei Area Council. President Salva has gone further and sent his lead negotiator, Mr Pagan Amum, to Khartoum to resolve the stalemate in the implementation of the nine (9) agreements and the pending issues of Abyei and border. Although Pagan might have held good meetings with the key decision makers of NCP including President Bashir, we may wait to see the fruit of these meetings as the regime in Khartoum is so divided and with no real centre of power.
On the other hand, the regime in Khartoum failed not only to show any effort to implement the nine (9) agreements but also not to engage with the South in building consensus on the AU Proposal on Abyei and mechanism for resolving the border issues. The regime in Khartoum has failed the last meeting on border security by putting unrealistic condition of disengagement between Juba and the SPLM-North. The regime in Khartoum also started with aerial bombardment that resulted in loss of innocent lives in South Sudan. Besides killing of the innocent lives in South Sudan, the regime in Khartoum refused, contrary to oil agreement, to allow the export of oil of the South through Sudan.
President Bashir, instead of engaging with President Salva over Abyei, he rejected outright, after his release from Hospital in Saudi Arabia, the AU Proposal on Abyei and claimed instead that Abyei is the area of Misseriya Arab nomads. This statement dashed any hope for serious engagement over Abyei and encouraged some spoilers from Misseriya to enter Abyei town and to create havoc among the returnees and that resulted in the loss of innocent life. Also since the AU Communiqué of 24th October, the Government of Sudan has been reluctant to attend the meetings of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee under the pretext that they are finalizing their list of nominations for Abyei administration.
It is clear that while South Sudan has done what it could to implement the nine (9) agreements and to engage Khartoum on the pending issues of Abyei and border, the regime in Khartoum is revealing again its character of dishonouring agreements. Seriously, if the AU Peace and Security Council and UN Security Council are to meet, it would not take them effort to endorse the proposals of the AU Panel on Abyei and border. It needs to be emphasized that the proposal of the AU Panel on Abyei is not only an African solution but importantly it came from prominent leaders of Africa with high sense of justice and caring for peace and stability in the continent. The AU Proposal on Abyei is not a solution imposed on the two countries but it came as a result of signed agreements (Abyei Protocol, Permanent Court of Arbitration and 20 June 2011 Agreement) and processes (the AU Roamap and the UN Security Council Resolution 2046) agreed by the two countries. Any attempt to derail these processes will gravely undermine the credibility of the AU and UN and may delay justice and undermine peace.
Bashir is likely to reject these proposals and will continue to defy the international community, particularly the AU for the first time. If this defiant behaviour of Bashir is not contained, then it will continue to destabilize the region. African Union in particular should take serious actions against Bashir and to review its decision of protecting him from International Criminal Court. Equally, the AU should also consider suspending the membership of Sudan in AU as Sudan under Bashir will continue to be liability to the content and the people of Sudan.
The Government of South Sudan should rule out any serious business with Sudan and it should manage its oil sector as if it has no border with Sudan under Bashir. As the South has shown its commitment to implement in good faith the nine (9) agreements and to build good relations with Sudan, the friends of the South and international community should now assist the South to develop an alternative pipeline. Above all, the people of Sudan are to be supported as they rise up against injustice and indignation through popular uprising. The people of Sudan are great and have set examples before in fight against tyranny in Sudan through peaceful popular uprising. If Sudan continues to defy the international community, the option of regime change will be unavoidable.
Luka Biong Deng is a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org