Photo: Luke Vargas/TRNS
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The African Union (AU) has strongly condemned the holding of a unilateral referendum in the disputed Abyei region between the republics of Sudan and South Sudan, warning that the act can only heighten tension on the ground and further complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution.
In a statement Monday, the AU Commission chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said she was closely following the situation in the Abyei Area after learning “with deep concern” of the organisation of a unilateral “referendum” by the leadership of the Ngok Dinka community to determine the final status of Abyei.
While understanding the frustrations arising from the fact that the Abyei referendum has not yet been held, as provided for by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Dlamini Zuma stressed that the referendum was an unacceptable and irresponsible act.
She condemned the exercise and said: “This unilateral act is in violation of the relevant decisions of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), and can only heighten tension on the ground and further complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of existing commitments.”
The Chairperson called on those orchestrating that illegal act to put an immediate halt to their actions, as they pose a threat to peace in the Abyei Area.
She cautioned that their actions had the potential to trigger an unprecedented escalation on the ground, which could negatively affect the continuing normalisation of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, with far-reaching consequences for the region as a whole.
“Such escalation could also put the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeepers in a very dangerous position,” she said.
At the same time, the Chairperson acknowledged with appreciation the rejection by the Government of South Sudan of any unilateral action in Abyei.
Dlamini Zuma has called on the international community, including the United Nations, to condemn the ongoing unilateral and irresponsible action in Abyei, and to prevail upon those concerned to cease it immediately.
The AU has made its position on the issue of Abyei clear in various communiqués issued by the PSC, including the acceptance of the proposal submitted by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP) on 21 September, 2012.
As stressed by the PSC, that proposal represented a fair and balanced solution that takes into account existing commitments and the interests of the communities on the ground.
Dlamini Zuma also called for the expeditious implementation of the 20 June, 2011, Agreement on Temporary Administrative and Security Arrangements for the Abyei Area.
In that respect, she welcomed the decisions reached by the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan during their recent summit in Juba.
The Chairperson said that she looked forward to the forthcoming visit of the PSC to Abyei, and was confident that PSC interactions with all parties concerned can assist in defusing the prevailing tension and facilitate a consensual way out of the crisis, with the support of the AUHIP.