Scroll to top

So, You Want to Know More about Abyei?

No comments

So, You Want to Know More about Abyei?

Posted by Maggie Fick on August 8, 2009

If you are a regular reader of Enough Said, you’re likely up to speed on the basic nuts and bolts of the Abyei issue in Sudan. If you need a quick refresher, check out these blog posts summarizing the ruling of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal, what it means for the future of Sudan, and why those of us concerned about the future of Sudan can’t afford to forget about Abyei now that the ruling on its long-contested boundaries has been issued.

Now that you have the basics down, I wanted to share some useful information from PILPG, an international pro bono law firm that provided legal counsel to southern Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, in the arbitration process during the past year. PILPG put together a “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers document,” and although it is not online, I would be happy to send you a copy of the document, just contact me here. If you don’t need the full rundown, here are a few interesting clarifications on the state of play following the ruling by the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal two weeks ago that I picked up from this FAQ from PILPG:

Is Abyei Area defined by the Tribunal now part of the South?

No. The Tribunal only defined the “Abyei Area” that would be subject to the special administrative status under the Abyei Protocol. The Abyei Area is neither a northern or southern state, but its own special administrative unit. It has its own local governance and special administration. It will be for the residents of Abyei in 2011 to decide in their own referendum if it will retain its special administrative status as part of the north, or become part of the southern state of Bahr el Ghazal. Until then it belongs neither to the north or the south, just to Sudan.

What affect does the Tribunal’s award have on the determination of who will vote in the Abyei Referendum of 2011?

The Tribunal’s authority did not extend to determining who should vote in the 2011 Abyei Referendum. The Tribunal only had the authority to define the boundaries of the Abyei Area from within which voters will reside. The Abyei Protocol provides that the “residents” of the Abyei Area will vote in the 2011 Abyei Referendum  and that these “residents” shall be “Members of Ngok Dinka community and other Sudanese residing in the area.” This means that, in addition to all the members of the Ngok Dinka community voting in the referendum, the “other Sudanese” who will vote must “reside” in the newly defined Abyei Area. (Eligibility to vote in the Abyei Referendum is separate and distinct from determinations about voter eligibility for purposes of the 2010 national elections.)

And finally, two must-know facts on the details of grazing rights for the Misseriya nomads and the status of some oil fields formerly within the Abyei area:

Because of the award, do the Misseriya and other nomads have to stop moving through the area of Abyei?

No. The Tribunal’s decision is meant to facilitate, and in no way undermine, implementation of the Abyei Protocol. The Protocol provides that the “Misseriya and other nomadic peoples retain their traditional rights to graze cattle and move across the territory of Abyei.”20 The Tribunal’s decision protects these rights and does nothing to abolish, limit, or affect those rights in any way.

Did the Tribunal say whether the Heglig and Bamboo oil fields belong to the north
or south?

No. The Tribunal only decided that the areas in the east and northeast, where the Heglig and Bamboo oil fields are located, are not part of the Abyei Area. Applying the “tribal”
interpretation, the Tribunal merely reached the conclusion that these areas were not part of the Ngok Dinka ancestral homeland in 1905. The Tribunal said nothing, nor does its decision imply anything, about whether these two fields were part of the north or south in 1956. This is the jurisdiction and charge of the Technical Ad-Hoc North-South Border Committee, established by the CPA. That Committee will determine where the 1956 north-south border was and therefore what areas –including relevant oil fields – fall north or south of that border.