Northerners Shouldn't Dance a Victory Tune: Panthou (Heglig) is Southern territory
BY: Garang Kuot Kuot, AWEIL,
Bahr el Ghazal
The long-awaited ruling on the contested Abyei boundaries by The Hague based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has finally come and passed, thus bringing about a much needed relief. The ruling on Abyei boundaries had captured international attention while creating unprecedented anxiety among the wider Sudanese community both at home and around the world.
Days leading to the announcement of the Award, no one could tell the future of Sudan; for many, it was the beginning of another bloody and protracted military confrontation between the North and South of Sudan. Thank God both parties received and accepted the ruling with honor despite some feelings of dissatisfaction.
However, the nature upon which the ruling was done left more confusion among Sudanese masses than clarity. After watching a televised announcement of the Award from
, many were left wondering how it had ended.
Understandably, the ruling was quite complex for far too many people to comprehend. It will indeed take long before a lot of people understand what has really been decided in
This confusion is quite evident in
. The ruling was received with somewhat exaggerated euphoria particularly among the Northern circles who blatantly misunderstood court's ruling as having allocated the ownership of Panthou/Heglig oil fields to the North. This misplaced understanding of the Award clearly overlooked the mandate of the PCA.
The PCA was not demarcating the boundaries between the South and the North which would essentially determine the ownership of the disputed oil field at Panthou. Instead, the court was only trying to identify and delimit the boundaries comprising of the nine chiefdoms of the Ngok Dinka which it correctly did.
In effect, the PCA was very explicit about its mandate. In its press statement on the Abyei Award, the PCA articulated its mandate as pertaining to: ‚ÄúWhether or not the ABC Experts had, on the basis of the agreement of the Parties as per the CPA, exceeded their mandate which is ‚Äėto define (i.e. delimit) and demarcate the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905‚Äô as stated in the Abyei Protocol, and reiterated in the Abyei Appendix and the ABC Terms of Reference and Rules of Procedure.‚ÄĚ
Nowhere in the statement or in the final Award has the court made any mention of its mandate having to do with the demarcation of the North-South border. That being the case, where then did the Northern elites get this notion that Panthou/Heglig oil field is allocated to the North? The court‚Äôs decision to leave the oil fields outside what constitutes nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms does not necessarily allocate them to the North.
The history of Panthou oil field is still fresh in our memory. It wasn‚Äôt long ago when
regime forcefully evicted residents of Panthou upon the discovery of oil there and renamed the area as Heglig thereby giving false impression that the area belongs to the North. The name, Heglig, was coined and forced on to the national map in 1999 as a prelude to the planned annexation of this area to the North. It is needless to add that Panthou, illegally renamed Heglig by the NIF/NCP in 1990s, is an ancestral
The fact that the NIF/NCP intends to annex parts of
peacefully or forcefully is getting all too obvious. Already, the head of government delegation that attended Abyei proceedings at
, Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, is making highly misplaced assertion that
would no longer get any share from the Panthou/Heglig oil revenues.
Yes it is quite evident that the NCP‚Äôs interest in Southern is not its people but resources particularly oil. Nevertheless, the good ‚Äėambassador‚Äô must be asked: who allocated the said oil field to the North?
I thought the ambassador would be wary of the fact that the victims of his regime who were forcefully removed from Panthou/Heglig, with many of them killed and entire property destroyed, are still putting up as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in some parts of Greater Upper Nile and beyond. These IDPs might be forced to open a lawsuit against the regime for the atrocities inflicted on them and which continue to be manifested through this attempt to annex their ancestral land.
Northerners shouldn‚Äôt make unnecessary claims over the ownership of the Panthou/Heglig oil field because Abyei Award doesn‚Äôt demarcate the North-South border but only defines the area that constitutes nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms. Dirdeiry, of all people, should have read and clearly understood the court‚Äôs ruling before misleading the Northern masses that they have been allocated the Panthou oil field.
The question on whether or not Panthou/Heglig belongs to the North or South of Sudan should be left pending until North-South border is demarcated. The best Northerners can do at this point in time is speeding up the demarcation of th