Abyei Hague Ruling: Moral win and future imperatives for South Sudan

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Saturday, 15 August 2009 07:02
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Jok Gai Anai
Victoria, BC, Canada) - Many things have been said since the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced its verdict on whether the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) experts exceeded their mandate or not. This article will not discuss whether or not the Heglig oil Fields belong to Unity State or Southern Kordofan. That will be tackled separately in both its legal and analytical forms. Rather, this article will seek to speak to our conscience as South Sudanese with regards to our moral bearings and the tenets of justice that are unique to us.

The ABC experts, with mandate clearly set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, were tasked with demarcating the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905. They did exactly what they were asked to do but the Government of Sudan refused to act on their recommendations. And so the case went to The Hague, Netherlands on July 3rd, 2009.

On the day of the ruling, I was glued onto my computer by 1.00 am Pacific time, not because I hate to sleep but because I knew that an important decision was going to be announced.

The key point in the ruling was that the ABC experts partially exceeded their mandate. But let's examine what the ruling implies.

Professor Pierre-Marie Dupuy (Presiding Arbitrator) had this to say on July 22nd, 2009:

The Security Council of the United Nations, which recognizes the importance of this award to peace and reconciliation in Sudan among all of its peoples, has called upon the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A to treat the award as binding and to implement it fully. The Parties are so bound by the terms of their Arbitration Agreement and by the force of international law. The Tribunal has produced an Award which resolves the dispute between the parties over the validity of the ABC decision and which, in accordance with the Arbitration Agreement, draws a boundary that reflects the facts and law of the matter. The Tribunal has acted scrupulously within its mandate to prepare an award in whose terms and holdings it has every confidence. It is equally confident thatthe parties will abide by and implement the award in good faith.

Reactions to the PCA ruling

Professor Pierre-Marie Dupuy (Presiding Arbitrator) is a fair judge. You may disagree but I won’t blame you. For South Sudanese, the land is their birth right. They can’t let it go no matter what. For the NCP government, and Northern Sudanese for that matter, the oil is a pretty big deal; they need it for survival. These two extreme positions were evident in the following reactions to the ruling:

Dr. Riek Machar, the head of the SPLM delegation said the ruling was a victory for the Sudanese people and a victory for peace.

The president of the Government of South Sudan, on the other hand, had this to say:

"22 years of warfare have demonstrated to most Sudanese that lasting resolutions to intractable problems are more easily achieved around a negotiating table than through the barrel of the gun."

In contrast, the NCP`s head of delegation, Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed`s view of victory was in the following lines:

''We welcome the fact that the oil fields are now excluded from the Abyei area, particularly the Heglig oil field.''

Southern Sudanese sense of justice and fairness

In light of the strong words from the SPLM team and leadership, I find it prudent to translate a recent hit song by Panchol Deng Ajang:

Our land is lush

Our Land is lush

You live by your hoe

It`s hard to come out

But when you come out

We will cultivate the land.

The grain is money

You have a cow, that is money

You have a goat, that is money

You have a chicken, that is money

When you come out

We will cultivate the land.

In his ruling, Professor Pierre-Marie Dupuy was driven by the desire to be fair and to prevent a return to war, a position that speaks to our principles of fairness. When a nation has sunk deeper, contemporary voices come up to shape the future. To shape that future, Southern Sudanese will remind themselves that they did not go to war because of oil. Oil is a resource that we sit on in many parts of South Sudan. Suffice to say that if Abyei lost the oil fields, so what? Think of the land. Think of the human capital that Abyei brings. Think of great military administrators like General Pieng Deng Kuol. The legal fight may have shifted to the North-South Boundary Demarcation, but we have every bit to be hopeful as we look forward to the future! Globally, our courage to accept a win-win ruling is not a weakness but it endears us to fair-minded people as equal contributors to world peace.