What is at stake for Abyei is whether it is forcibly included in Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s stated plan to impose Sharia on all territory under Khartoum’s control, and to launch a campaign of cultural and linguistic Arabization.
Bashir is already wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur, but protected by the African Union and Arab League with the support of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. And he is taking advantage of the fact that, with independence for South Sudan so tantalizingly close on July 9, no one wants to provoke a confrontation at this time that could spoil what has been so many years in the making. South Sudan in particular does not want to risk its own destruction at the hands of the north by challenging Khartoum’s presence in Abyei.
International support and sustained pressure are essential to keep Abyei from becoming a trophy of Islamic supremacism. “Northern Sudan dismisses U.N. call for troops to quit Abyei,” by Alex Dziadosz for Reuters, June 4:
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Khartoum on Saturday dismissed calls by the U.N. Security Council for it to withdraw its forces immediately from Abyei, the disputed region of divided Sudan they seized on May 21.
A senior official of the northern government in Khartoum said the dispute would be resolved only through north-south negotiations, not pressure from the council.
“This arrangement by government forces is a temporary arrangement. The only solution for the two parties is to find a solution different from referendum or to conduct the referendum,” said Rabie Abdelati, an information ministry official and senior member of the ruling northern party.
“I don’t see any justification for the United Nations Security Council to be involved.”
South Sudan is scheduled to secede and become an independent country in about five weeks, and there has been no agreement on which state should control the fertile, oil-producing region of Abyei on the ill-defined border between them.
A referendum on whether it should be part of the north or south was marred by disputes over who should be allowed to vote. The region is used all year by Dinka Ngok people linked to the south and part of the year by northern Arab Misseriya nomads.
The security council condemned Khartoum’s continued military control of Abyei in a unanimous statement, calling it a “serious violation” of north-south peace accords.
It expressed concern at an influx of Misseriya into Abyei town that “could force significant changes in the ethnic composition of the area.”…
All the better to engineer the “referendum” results Khartoum wants.