South Sudan risks losing oil-rich Abyei

Tuesday February 21 2017

An aerial view of Banton Bridge in the contentious Abyei region. FILE PHOTO | AFP

An aerial view of Banton Bridge in the contentious Abyei region. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH

South Sudan risks losing the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei with internal strife taking most of its attention as Khartoum moves to entrench its administration across the border.

President Omar al-Bashir declared last week that Abyei was part of Sudan’s territory and asked residents to apply for identification documents from the local administration answerable to Khartoum. The dispute over Abyei was left in abeyance by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, had last month said that the contested Abyei would remain under Khartoum until residents determine where they belong in a referendum that is yet to be scheduled.

Abyei contains 25 per cent of the oil deposits as per the survey of the former united Sudan.

The EastAfrican gathered that Juba has put the issue of Abyei in the back burner in order not to create diplomatic tension with Khartoum at a time the government is still fighting rebels loyal to Dr Machar.

Juba is particularly concerned that raising the issue of Abyei —which is close to the heart of Khartoum—could push Sudan to support Dr Machar militarily.