The announcement of the much-anticipated decision on the boundaries of the contested Abyei region, located on the border between northern and southern Sudan, is set for next Wednesday, July 22, according to a statement made today by the tribunal issuing the ruling.
The decision on the delineation of the boundaries, hotly contested because the region contains both oil and valuable land for grazing and migration, was referred to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague when the northern government accused the experts with Abyei Boundaries Commission, or ABC, of “exceeding their mandate.” The ABC had concluded that the region is part of southern Sudan.
Now, the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal at the Permanent Court will announce whether the ABC did indeed overstep its mandate. The two potential scenarios could play out as follows:
- If the Tribunal finds that the ABC did not exceed its mandate, the boundaries as drawn by the ABC still stand.
- If the Tribunal finds that the ABC did exceed its mandate, the Tribunal is authorized to delineate the boundaries of the Abyei Area boundaries based on the evidence submitted by both parties. Therefore, the Tribunal can then independently decide to define the boundaries in the same way that the ABC defined them or change the boundaries as they deem appropriate.
Delineation of the Abyei border is a key component of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, that ended the 22-year civil war between northern and southern Sudan in 2005. With few components of the CPA implemented and national elections and a self-determination referendum on the horizon, this decision over the boundaries of Abyei will be a critical test. Both the North and South have committed to respect the decision of the Tribunal as final and binding, and both parties will have high-level delegations on the ground in Abyei to help quell any violent reactions to the decision. The U.S. State Department also recently announced that U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Maj. General Scott Gration will also be present in Abyei for the announcement next week.
This will be the event to watch next week in Sudan. We’ll be bringing you regular updates in the coming days and a more detailed strategy paper early next week. The Permanent Court of Arbitration also noted today that the announcement will be broadcast live beginning at 10a.m. in The Hague (GMT +2), so make note to tune in here.
Photo: Representatives of northern and southern Sudan at the Permanent Court in The Hague. Via Permanent Court of Arbitration website