A month after the fact, the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal’s July 22 ruling remains a major topic of discussion. Voice of America’s radio show Straight Talk Africa discussed the ruling this week, with commentary by Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the Head of the Government of Southern Sudan Mission to the U.S., and Ambassador Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, the Head of the NCP’s delegation to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Both representatives reiterated their respective parties’ commitment to the ruling and to the further implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Lol, a member of the South’s SPLM, focused his comments on the evolution of the Abyei ruling and its effects on the North-South border discussions. He believes that the original report produced by the Abyei Border Commission, the subject of the tribunal, was “excellent,” but that the NCP’s rejection of it led the two parties to seek outside guidance from the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The original commission was given the task of determining and demarcating the nine kingdoms of the Ngok Dinka, and last month’s ruling finally brought that process to a close.
Lol also commented on the NCP’s decision to stop giving oil remittances to the South. He said that while both parties benefit from the oil fields, the NCP tends to benefit more. The SPLM is part of Sudan’s Government of National Unity, but the northern and southern governments have struggled to implement key provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, that brought the two sides together after more than two decades of civil war. Resource sharing is a cornerstone of the CPA and remains highly contentious.
Ambassador Dirdeiry said that the ruling was vindication for the NCP’s stance on the Abyei Border Commission’s decision. The decision by the tribunal in The Hague proves that the NCP raised concerns about the ABC’s findings in “good faith,” he said. Despite the challenges delineating the Abyei borders, Dirdeiry stated that both sides share the foremost priority of implementing the CPA.. He maintained that the North and the South still have the opportunity to come together as a united country, citing as evidence an agreement signed in Juba yesterday between the two sides and mediated by Special Envoy Gration.
But what these remarks on VOA, and even the early reports about the new ‘points of agreement’ document signed yesterday, remind us is that while heartfelt quotes and signed pieces of paper are stacking up, there is woefully little demonstrated evidence of genuine partnership to get excited about.
To learn more about the significance of the Abyei ruling, check out Enough’s recent strategy paper, Abyei: Sudan’s Next Test.