DOHA, Mar 31 – Sudan\’s President Omar al-Bashir has insisted the problem of Abyei cannot be solved without the Arab Misseriya nomads participating in a referendum on the status of the disputed border region.
"We are saying, loud and clear, that there will be no referendum on Abyei without the Misseriya," Bashir said in Doha late on Wednesday.
"The Abyei protocol states clearly that the inhabitants of the region, the Ngok Dinka and the other citizens, have the right to participate in the referendum.
"We refuse this division between first and second class citizens, between settled and nomadic. They are all Sudanese and they have the same rights," the Sudanese leader added.
The flashpoint area, where clashes killed at least 70 people earlier this month, was due to hold a referendum in January on whether to join north or south Sudan, to coincide with the plebiscite on southern independence.
Southerners opted overwhelmingly for succession, but the Abyei vote was postponed indefinitely, with the ruling parties in Khartoum and Juba at loggerheads over whether the Misseriya should be eligible to participate.
The heavily armed Arab cattle-herding tribe were a key proxy militia of Khartoum’s army during the 1983-2005 civil war against southern rebels.
They have traditionally moved their animals through the fertile Abyei district each year, to access water and graze the land farmed by the Ngok Dinka, their bitter war-time enemies who support the south.
Despite repeated southern assurances that those centuries-old grazing rights will be respected should Abyei vote to join the south, many Misseriya remain fearful their route will be blocked by a new international frontier.
Abyei\’s future is the most sensitive of a raft of issues the governments of north and south have been trying to resolve ahead of southern independence in July, which include borders, citizenship, security and debt.
The Sudanese president flew to Doha for talks with the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, on the foundering Darfur peace process, which is being mediated in the Qatari capital.
Bashir again accused Darfur rebel groups of fighting alongside the forces of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
"They have given weapons to our brothers in Libya, who are part of the Darfur rebel groups, they are (fighting) side by side," he said on Wednesday.
The Justice and Equality Movement, the most heavily-armed rebel group, and one of just two taking part in peace p