KHARTOUM, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- The dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over affiliation of the oil-rich area of Abyei has appeared to the front once again, ahead of proposed Abyei referendum which Khartoum rejects but Juba adheres to.
South Sudan has announced its adherence to the date fixed by the African Union (AU) mediation early next October, while Khartoum government insists that the referendum would not be held on that date and that any unilateral attempt to conduct it would lead to unlimited consequences.
The AU, during its head of states' summit in September last year, adopted a proposal presented by Thabo Mbeki, head of the AU High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) suggesting conduction of Abyei referendum next October.
South Sudan seems to be determined to press ahead with arrangements for the referendum where Southern Sudanese media sources reportedly expected South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit to issue a decree granting the government employees from Abyei's sons an open leave to enable them to return to their areas to prepare for the referendum.
In this respect, Edward Leno, co-chairman of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, was reported to have told reporters in Juba, capital of South Sudan, that "Abyei people were determined to conduct the referendum on its fixed date."
"We will carry on with holding the referendum whether Khartoum liked it or not," he added, noting that the Abyei people would not wait for the Sudanese government to change its stance.
Leno did not exclude that violence could break out in Abyei to prevent the conduction of the referendum, saying "We expect the Sudanese government and the Miseriya tribe to launch armed attacks at Abyei area to prevent the conduction of the referendum."
He reiterated that Abyei belongs to South Sudan and that the referendum was just procedural, saying "the citizens of the area from Dinka Ngok are the ones who have the right to fix the date of the referendum and the Miseriya tribe does not have that right because they are not citizens but herdsmen who just pass through the area."
However, Sudan rejects conduction of the Abyei referendum next October and insists that holding the referendum from one side is illegal, warning against a new setback in the relations between the two countries if Juba insists to conduct the referendum.
To this end, Al-Khair Al-Faheem, co-chairman of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee on the part of Sudan, was reported by local Sudanese media to have said that "the proposed Abyei referendum by the AU mediation would not be conducted next October as Juba plans. "
"Abyei is still subject to the Protocol embodied in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 and the administrative and security arrangements signed in June 2011 under international patronage," he added.
Al-Faheem further warned that Khartoum would not recognize the result of the proposed referendum, noting that "the referendum cannot be conducted without completion of the administrative structures at the area or before the two sides agree on formation of the commission to be entrusted with supervising the referendum. "
Abyei has been witnessing growing tension since May this year when the Nadhir (Chieftain) of Dinka Ngok tribe, Kual Deng Majok, and two of his companions were killed in clashes between members of the Miseriya tribe and peacekeepers from the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) who were accompanying Majok, while five members of the Miseriya tribe were also killed in the clashes. The AU is currently investigating that incident.
A referendum was scheduled to be held in Abyei to decide the fate of the area coincident with the referendum on self- determination for South Sudan in January 2011, which resulted in the separation between the north and the south. But the voting did not take place due to differences over who has the right to vote.