JUBA – South Sudan information minister Michael Makuei Lueth has referred to last week’s attack on a village in Abyei as a Sudanese problem and affair.
Early this week, Arab armed men attacked a village in South Sudan’s contested region of Abyei killing over 30 people. An additional number were also wounded.
Speaking to reporters on Friday in Juba following the weekly cabinet meeting, Makuei said the attack on the Abyei village whose residents are from South Sudan’s Dinka ethnic group was a Sudanese affairs and problem.
President Salva Kiir on Thursday condemned the attack and the presidency said in a statement that an investigation committee had been formed to investigate the attack together with a team from the Sudanese government.
“The attack is a Sudanese affair. It is a Sudanese problem. But the area is contested and its official ownership is not yet known. What we will do as a government is to caution the Miseriya that such attack should not take place again,” Makuei said.
“Even if they were attack their fellow Arabs, in humanity, it is not logic,” Makuei who is also the government spokesman added.
In 2016, South Sudan was criticized for referring to Dr. Luka Biong, a native of Abyei, as foreigner. Then foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in a report that Biong was a Sudanese national employed in South Sudan’s Juba University.
“In case of Dr. Luka Biong Deng, the University of Juba is an independent academic institution which employs national and non-nationals, like Dr. Luka Biong Deng who is a citizen of the Republic of Sudan,” partly reads the statement signed by Marial at the time.
The latest comment by a senior government official confirms silent observations that people of Abyei, although they hail from the Dinka ethnic group like President Salva Kiir and Makuei himself, have been seen to be foreigners in South Sudan.
The 2005 peace agreement which ended 21 years of war between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) provided for a referendum to be conducted by the people of Abyei to choose between remaining in the Sudan and opting to join South Sudan.
However, the referendum did not take place while South Sudan got its independence in July 2011.
A unilaterally conducted referendum by residents of Abyei in 2013 was not recognized by Sudan and others including the government of South Sudan. Abyei is nevertheless included in the South Sudan’s transitional constitution, 2011, as its territory.
It also remains unclear why South Sudan appoints leaders from Abyei to senior leadership positions in the government.