London, Asharq Al-Awsat—President of South Sudan Salva Kiir and President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir are expected to meet next week to discuss the Abyei status referendum and other issues, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.
The news of this Sudan-South Sudan summit comes at a time when media in the South has been banned from reporting on the referendum due to what the country’s information minister described as “non-objective coverage.”
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat South Sudanese information minister Michael Makuei Lueth said that his country is in the process of preparing to receive Bashir next week, adding, “We expect the visit will take place on October 22 or later this month.”
Lueth confirmed that the discussions will focus on the Abyei referendum and other territorial disputes between the two neighboring countries.
Lueth said that it was impossible to hold the Abyei status referendum this month, in line with the time-frame put forward by African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) chairman President Thabo Mbeki.
“We in South Sudan adhere to holding the referendum in Abyei region, but we must agree with Sudan, the African Union, and the UN Security Council,” the South Sudanese minister said.
Lueth said that the two presidents would discuss mechanisms for holding the referendum, set a final date for this to take place, and the formation of a referendum commission.
He said: “It is impossible to hold the referendum this October…We have to be realistic and act in a scientific and practical way,” adding, “All television and radio coverage about the Abyei referendum have been suspended…due to non-objective coverage.”
The Sudanese Messiria tribe is in a dispute with the South Sudanese Dinka Ngok tribe over the Abyei area.
Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement over the temporary administrative and security arrangements in Abyei on June 20, 2011. The African Union, among other major international players, has been advocating a referendum in order to reach a final settlement of the issue.
A 4,000-strong Ethiopian peacekeeping force was deployed in the disputed territory to prevent any security mishaps.
In May, the leader of the Dinka Ngok tribe, Kual Deng Majok, was killed in clashes, along with the chief of the UN peacekeeping force and 16 Messiria tribe members. Investigations into that incident are still ongoing.