Kiir, Bashir talk to defuse tensions
06 May 2013, 16:35
Juba - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has spoken with
his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir in a bid to ease tensions after deadly
clashes in Abyei, a region claimed by both sides, officials said Monday.
The UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the African Union have appealed
for calm in the flashpoint area after the killing of a tribal chief and a UN
peacekeeper on Saturday.
"Our president has been in direct contact with
president Bashir... they exchanged ideas about this sad incident," South
Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters.
Both Juba and Khartoum have condemned the fighting which
killed Kual Deng Majok, the Abyei leader of the Dinka Ngok, a people viewed as
loyal to South Sudan.
Majok and an Ethiopian peacekeeper were shot dead in an
attack by gunmen from the Misseriya, a pastoralist people who graze their
cattle in Abyei and are seen as supporters of Khartoum.
Several Misseriya are also reported to have been killed, as
well as a Dinka colleague of Majok. Two peacekeepers were also wounded.
Ban urged both sides to "avoid any escalation of this
unfortunate event," while the AU, which has been mediating between
Khartoum and Juba on Abyei, said they must "ensure that the current situation
does not spiral out of control."
Abyei's status has not been resolved despite steps which
Sudan and South Sudan have taken since March to normalise their relations in
other areas, after months of intermittent clashes along their undemarcated
Abyei's status was the most sensitive issue left unsettled
when South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011. A referendum to determine Abyei's
future was stalled and Sudanese troops shortly after took over the region by
Negotiations on the region's future are ongoing, but
Benjamin said he believed the killings were "done by Misseriya militia...
to frustrate the Abyei referendum."
However, Khartoum has insisted it remains committed "to
all the agreements that have been signed" with Juba, adding that they hope
the killings will not impact a recent warming of relations between the former
civil war foes.
At least 4 000 Ethiopian troops with the UN Interim Security
Force for Abyei (UNISFA) are based in the district.
South Sudan "has requested UNISFA search for the perpetrators
to bring them to justice", Benjamin added, calling Saturday's attack
"Sudan's government should also take steps to find out
who committed this crime," he added.
Majok's death is the most serious incident since Sudanese
troops withdrew in May last year to end a year-long occupation that forced more
than 100 000 people to flee Abyei towards South Sudan.
While Sudan and South Sudan have been implementing
timetables set out in March for restoring relations, they have not met
deadlines they also agreed upon to set up Abyei's administrative structure,
including a police service.