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A Free Hand to Abyei Boundaries Commission: A Reply to Mr. Johnson by Adam B. Elhiraika

3/6/2006 6:33 am

To start with I wish to confirm that I read the Abyei Commission Boundaries Commission Report from Internet sources and that the views I expressed in my previous article asw ell as in this reply represent my personal interpretation of the report and do not represent any institution or group with which I am affiliated. Also the reader needs to know that what is at stake as a consequence of the “hurriedly prepared” report is about 50 per cent of the land on which the Misseria people lived for about 4 centuries on their own or together with Dinka Ngok tribes.

Mr. Johnson’s reply to my article on 28 February 2006 reaffirms my argument that the Government of Sudan bears the ultimate responsibility for the report. The reply explains that permanent Misseria settlements including towns, such as El-Meram, that are judged by the Commission to have been established during the last century did not count. Mr. Johnson also confirms that the Government of Sudan did not allow the Misseria and Dinka the opportunity to dialogue on the dispute as the Commission wished. More importantly, however, the reply as a whole amounts to saying that the Commission was given a free hand to make final decisions that are not subject to question regardless of the criteria applied and evidence used by the Commission to substantiate its conclusions. Indeed to the best of my understanding the criteria used by the Commission were not negotiated between the Government of Sudan and SPLA, and this at least partly underpins the argument that the Commission acted outside its mandate.

Mr. Johnson argued in his reply that the Government of Sudan must accept the report implying that it is too late for the opinion of the Misseria people on the report to count even if the Government of Sudan supports what they say. I have argued in my article that the criteria (permanent settlement and using a straight line to demarcate the boundaries between the two tribes) are both baseless and inconsistently applied. Mr. Johnson’s reply has strengthened my conviction in this regard. The ABC report concludes that there was no evidence (maps or otherwise) that can be used to define the Dinka Ngok’s areas that were appended to Kordofan in 1905, but the Commission has the evidence today to determine with certainty what were Dinka Ngok’s areas in 1905. This turns the dispute over land to a dispute over evidence and I strongly submit that there is no evidence to provide a foundation for the straight line criterion to be acceptable.

Before revisiting the bases of what I believe as baseless criteria used by the Commission to make unacceptable recommendations, the Commission must answer questions regarding its rejection of colonial evidence on the boundaries. Clearly the Commission cannot be the defendant and the judge at the same time. Therefore as I mentioned in my article a process has to be found for the fallacies and inconsistencies in the report and the complications created by it to be seriously and fairly addressed. I also hope that what I downloaded from the Internet is not the actual report submitted to the Presidency in July 2005, which, as Mr. Johnson mentioned in his reply, is not yet officially published.

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