Two years ago, Abyei was scheduled to have a referendum to determine whether it
would re-join the southern states that now compose South Sudan, or remain in Sudan.
That referendum ran aground due to disagreements over who was eligible to vote, with
the National Congress Party insisting that the Missiriya—seasonal migrants who graze
their cattle in Abyei during the dry season—must participate, and the Sudan People’s
Liberation Movement insisting that it is the Ngok Dinka—Abyei’s principle residents—
who must decide the territory’s future.
The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, which is currently mediating in
negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, made a proposal on 21 September for
Abyei’s referendum to finally be held in October 2013. The proposal excludes migrants
from voting. While South Sudan accepted the proposal, Sudan refused it.
Negotiations since then have faltered, despite international pressure, with the most recent
meetings in January between the two countries ending in a commitment to make future
discussions of Abyei’s political future conditional on the creation of a local
administration in Abyei and a police force.
Initial meetings about the police force at the beginning of February 2013 indicate
widespread divergences between the two countries as to the number of officers in the
force, and recent meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee over the formation of
the local administration ran aground after Sudan demanded 50% of the representation on
the Abyei Area Council, 10% more than its previous share. This demand led to South
Sudan suspending the nomination process for executive positions in the administration
while council membership is negotiated at upcoming meetings in Addis Ababa.