19 December 2010 – A three-day conference for peaceful coexistence between the Misseriya and Dinka Ngok of the disputed Abyei Area kicked off today in Kadugli, Southern Kordofan State.
Using a local peace building tool involving mediation from the ajaweed (council of elders), the conference was organized by the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Justice Africa to promote dialogue between the two tribes.
"This conference is happening in very complicated circumstances," Justice Africa Director Hafiz Ismail told participants gathered at the conference room of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The director added that the conference had been planned by a committee established after the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on Abyei's boundaries in July 2009. He considered it a great step forward to have the Misseriya and Dinka sit down at a table with mediators.
Mr. Ismail said the goal was "to reach a formula for peaceful coexistence", despite political decisions on contested issues about Abyei, which was assigned special status by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Also addressing participants, advisor to the President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir Sultan Tem Kuach said the pending referendum of January 2011 (on the south’s continued unity with or separation from the north) did not mean separation of the people of Sudan or a separation of the Misseriya and Dinka. Rather, it was an administrative exercise.
"Do not think that someone else will solve your problems," Mr. Kuach said, encouraging parties to engage in dialogue. "It is you who will decide about your issues."
Responding to a question about the conference's expected outcome, Abyei Dinka Ngok Paramount Chief Amir Kuol Deng expressed uncertainty due to the absence of Misseriya leaders.
"I call on absent parties to attend, as dialogue is the most useful tool in building peaceful coexistence," Mr. Hafiz reiterated in his speech.
The conference, attended by Dinka Ngok and Misseriya representatives, leaders of other Sudanese tribes and representatives of the United Nations and diplomatic missions, was funded by IFAD and the CPA Assessment Evaluation Commission.