News24

Protesters rally over Abyei region

2012-11-28 13:00

Khartoum - About 100 protesters rallied in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday proclaiming the flashpoint Abyei region Sudanese territory, ahead of a deadline for Sudan and South Sudan to settle the area's status.

"Abyei 100% north Sudanese," said one banner carried by the group.

"Misseriya and Dinka Ngoc are one nation," read another sign referring to the Dinka, a tribe who have traditionally lived in the area and who are one of the dominant groups in South Sudan.

The nomadic Arab Misseriya regularly graze their animals and move through Abyei.

The oil-producing territory was to hold a referendum in January 2011 on whether it belonged with the north or South, but disagreement on who could vote stalled the ballot.

The African Union set a deadline of 5 December for the two countries to resolve Abyei's final status or be bound by an AU proposal for a referendum in October next year.

Under that proposal, Dinka would have the right to vote, along with Sudanese with "permanent abode" in the Abyei area.

Sensitive matter

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has vowed that "all Misseriya will participate in the Abyei referendum".

Sudanese troops withdrew from Abyei in May to end a year-long occupation that sent more than 100 000 people fleeing towards South Sudan.

The area is now controlled by United Nations peacekeepers from Ethiopia.

Earlier this month the peacekeepers shot dead a Dinka who was among a group of youths who harassed Misseriya leaders visiting the town, a witness said.

When peacekeepers intervened, two Dinka tried to seize their weapons, leading to the shooting, the witness said.

The final status of Abyei was the most sensitive matter left unresolved when South Sudan separated last year under a peace agreement that ended 23 years of civil war.