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SPLM Official on Tensions in Abyei on Eve of ICJ Ruling | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr. Luka Biong Deng, the presidential affairs minister in the South Sudan Government and a leader in the People’s Movement [SPLM], has expressed his dismay at the Sudanese Government’s refusal to pay the costs of the travel of movement members and Dinka Nuquk tribesmen to attend the issuance of the International Court’s [ICJ] ruling in the Abyei case which will be announced in The Hague later today.

Speaking in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat before the court’s decision, Biong said the government would send 50 Al-Misiriyah men, National Congress leaders, and journalists but refused to send the 15 Dinka Naquk sultans to The Hague to attend the announcement of the ruling. He added that this is bound to have a negative impact in future and pointed out that there should be post-ruling thinking so that the two tribes can benefit from the area.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is the situation in Abyei and what are your expectations from the ruling?

[Biong Deng] The general situations are stable but there is much tension, waiting, and expectations that something is going to happen when the ruling is issued. Of course, the ruling is the ICJ’s acceptance or rejection of the report prepared by the committee of international experts on the demarcation of Abyei’s boundaries. Silva Kiir, the first vice president and prime minister of the South Sudan Government, sent during his recent visit to Abyei and Al-Mujallad in South Cordovan messages to the area’s population from Al-Misiriyah and Dinka Nuquk tribes saying the ruling should be implemented immediately regardless of which party it favors and that Al-Misiriyah’s grazing interests in the south would not be harmed if the ruling was in favor of the Dinka and that the rights of both tribes from oil revenues should be applied as stipulated in the Abyei agreement because this was not implemented at all. We are expecting the ruling to be in our favor because the SPLM lawyer presented a strong and convincing argument and therefore the parties should concentrate their thinking on the post-ruling stage so that both tribes can benefit and coexist peacefully in the area.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have all the local solutions been prepared for the security situations in future?

[Biong Deng] Yes. Local solutions were drawn up by the Dinka and Al-Misiriyah tribes to enlighten citizens from both sides and the entire area that there are clear assurances that no tension or problems will happen when the ruling is announced. On its part, the SPLM stressed that there is no massing of forces by the South Government or Denka sons and the movement will even send its Vice President and Blue Nile Governor Malik Akar accompanied by Deng Alor, the foreign minister and political bureau member, and others. We insisted at the tripartite meeting between the National Congress, the SPLM, and US Envoy Scott Gration that the leaders and Gration should go to the area to be present when the ruling is issued. But the National Congress rejected this which made the SPLM suspect that it was probably preparing something dangerous. But the intervention of Dr. Ghazi Salah al-Din, the president’s adviser, enabled the parties to agree to go to Abyei. The Dinka people have been fasting and praying to God to preserve their rights from the time they learned the date for issuing the ruling.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the area’s future after the ruling and should we expect lawlessness after it?

[Biong Deng] We stressed at the recent meetings between the SPLM, National Congress, and the Americans that the ruling should be implemented. As to the SPLM, it is totally committed and took steps to prepare the population there. We agreed to issue a joint statement by the National Congress and the SPLM on the day the ruling is announced in which we underline our support and commitment to implementing it with good intentions. Representatives of the Dinka sultans and Al-Misiriyah will arrive in The Hague and others in Abyei. A joint team was formed to explain the ruling. The demarcation of the boundaries in the area will be done immediately after the ruling so as not to leave any doubts.

We are expecting security lawlessness to happen here or there. If the National Congress does not clarify its real intentions toward the international arbitration’s ruling, then this will create many doubts about its implementation. We therefore urge the National Congress, which was the one that asked to resort to international arbitration, to comply with the ruling. If the ruling is not in our favor, we will still comply with it and have offered guarantees of this. We proposed that local leaders meet in Khartoum on 19 and20 July, before the ruling is announced, for enlightenment purposes prior to leaving for The Hague.

As to the area’s future, the Dinka and Al-Misiriyah each has 2 percent of the water and grazing. Citizens asked Silva Kiir these questions when he visited the area. We believe that whether the ruling is in the SPLM or the Sudanese people’s favor, the Abyei agreement should be implemented on the basis of these percentages and Al-Misiriyah’s grazing rights should be protected even if the south decided to secede. These are guarantees we have offered and are committed to them.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How are the preparations in The Hague?

[Biong Deng] The celebration in The Hague is small and for about one hour due to the financial situations in Sudan. The civilian administration in Abyei, the National Congress, and the SPLM were invited. But the government decided to send the invitations to 50 persons. We thought that the main celebration should be held in Abyei in the presence of the two partners’ leaders and the US envoy. We asked the government to pay the travel cost to The Hague for 15 Dinka sultans but it refused. This would have a negative impact if its refusal continued because the government is supposed to treat everybody equally.