Human Rights Body Should Urgently Review Submission by Ngok Dinka People of Abyei

Posted by Jenn Christian

On the one-year anniversary of the commencement of the southern Sudan referendum, January 9, 2012, the Ngok Dinka people of the disputed Abyei area formally requested that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD, immediately consider the actions of the Sudanese government against the Ngok Dinka people in Abyei.

CERD, which is an international body established to monitor state parties’ adherence to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, has the power to make recommendations to state parties to the convention, the U.N. Security Council, Secretary General, and Special Rapporteurs regarding a state party’s adherence to and/or violation of its obligations under the convention.

Like the people of southern Sudan, the Ngok Dinka people and other Abyei area residents too were afforded the right to vote in a referendum on July 9, 2011 to determine whether if Abyei would remain in north Sudan or be transferred to the south. However, a referendum vote in Abyei has yet to occur due to a dispute over the definition of “other residents” in the area, leaving Abyei’s final status unresolved.  

The Ngok Dinka’s submission to CERD catalogues violence perpetrated by the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, and government-aligned militia in the Abyei area. In particular, it mentions the brutal attacks on Abyei town and its environs in May 2008 and May 2011, the latter of which resulted in ethnic cleansing of the Ngok Dinka from Abyei. The submission further highlights the repeated failure on the part of the Sudanese government to fulfill its obligations, incurred under international agreements and conventions, related to the Abyei area and the Ngok Dinka people, notably, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. For these reasons, the Ngok Dinka people assert that Khartoum has violated their rights under the convention. They also request CERD to take a number of urgent steps, designed to mitigate the potential for further violence in Abyei and to ensure that the Sudanese government’s violations of the Convention cease and that past violations are appropriately remedied.

The Ngok Dinka people of Abyei area simultaneously sent a letter to six U.N. Special Rapporteurs alerting them to the CERD submission, and requesting that the rapporteurs form a working group to collectively review and address the current circumstances of the Ngok Dinka.

Earlier today, the Enough Project also sent a letter to CERD, copying the six U.N. Special Rapporteurs, to encourage the committee to consider with urgency the submission of the Ngok Dinka people and to focus its attention, in particular, on fulfilling the requested actions. Enough’s letter details our reporting since 2008 on the Sudanese government’s violent attacks against the Ngok Dinka people, perpetration of human rights abuses in the Abyei area, and failure to uphold agreements concerning the area. Enough’s reporting corroborates the descriptions of the May 2008 and May 2011 violence contained in the Ngok Dinka people’s submission, as well as underscores the consistency with which Khartoum has violated its obligations under international law related to the Abyei area and the Ngok Dinka people.

Enough’s letter concludes:

The GoS and its forces’ repeated violations of agreements related to the rights of the Ngok Dinka people and the Abyei Area evidence a cycle of impunity that must come to an end. If this cycle is permitted to continue, the Ngok Dinka people will never fully enjoy the rights accorded to them under international conventions to which the GoS is a party, among them, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Ngok Dinka people’s submission to CERD stands as a stark reminder to the international community of the progress that has yet to be achieved in Sudan. One year ago, the international community and the people of Sudan and South Sudan, alike, achieved what many thought was impossible: They peacefully and credibly carried out the southern Sudan referendum. In celebrating this great achievement, and the subsequent independence of South Sudan, we must not forget the unimplemented protocols of the CPA, among them, the protocol that provided the Ngok Dinka people and other residents of Abyei with the right to freely choose in a referendum whether Abyei would be part of Sudan or South Sudan. This right to self-determination must be restored to the Ngok Dinka people, as well as the dignity and peace they have violently lost at the hands of the Sudanese government and its military forces.