Preparations for a vote on Sudan's border region are stalled
While plans for South Sudan referendum move forward, preparations for a vote on Abyei, a contested border region that could join South Sudan, are making little headway.
With the two referenda in Sudan a little more than 100 days away, the United States has recently taken the lead and made progress on critical negotiations regarding Abyei, a highly contested region on the country’s North-South border. Direct engagement by the US is exactly what human rights and peace organizations have been asking for over the last year, to prevent renewed war and violence against civilians in Sudan. The US once again is in a position to break the logjam on Abyei, as it did during the negotiations on the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, which brought peace between the North and South after more than 20 years of war and two million deaths. When the two parties meet again early next month in Addis Ababa, we are hopeful that the administration will continue making progress toward the goal of on-time, free and fair, peaceful, and respected referenda.Skip to next paragraph
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On January 9, the people of Abyei are scheduled to vote in a referendum alongside the South. As the South votes on whether or not to form their own independent country, the people of Abyei will determine who they want to join – as stipulated in the CPA. However, whereas the South Sudan Referendum Commission, which is tasked with conducting the referendum in the South, is after much delay fully staffed and has finalized voter registration forms, the mere establishment of the Abyei Referendum Commission has been held up on the issue of membership criteria. Some of the other key items holding up the referendum in Abyei are the subsequent appointment and nomination of the members and agreement on criteria for voter eligibility.
Given that January 9 is just around the corner, many people in Sudan and elsewhere are greatly concerned that the referenda will not occur as scheduled and that Abyei, in particular, and the South will erupt in violence. In 1972, a similar referendum was promised to Abyei in the peace agreement which ended the first civil war between the North and South, but was never implemented.