Sudan’s cabinet affairs minister Luka Biong Deng resigned Tuesday from the Khartoum government in protest at what he called “war crimes” in Abyei, occupied by northern troops at the weekend.
“We had hoped that we could form two viable states in good relationship with each other, but those in Khartoum do not seem interested in peace,” said Biong Deng, a senior southern leader in the national unity government.
“But with war crimes being committed in Abyei at the hands of (Khartoum’s ruling) National Congress Party, I could not in good faith continue to take part in such a government,” said Biong Deng, a member the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) who comes from the flashpoint Abyei region.
The fertile border region, claimed by both north and south, was due to vote on its future in January alongside a referendum on independence for the south, which delivered a landslide for secession to take place in July.
But Abyei’s vote did not happen amid arguments as to who was eligible to vote, and northern troops and tanks overran the district’s main town and its environs on Saturday.
Thousands of residents — mainly southern-supporting Dinka Ngok people — are reported to have fled across the border into the south, with houses set on fire and property looted in northern-controlled areas.
A UN Security Council delegation is due to hold talks on Tuesday with southern president Salva Kiir in the southern capital of Juba.
The southern government have demanded northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) withdraw immediately.
“The SAF must end their illegal occupation and leave Abyei,” the south’s information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Tuesday.
However, Khartoum’s government said late Monday that Abyei is a “northern town” and dismissed southern and international calls to pull troops out after days of fighting.
“Abyei will remain a northern town until the population decides on their situation by themselves,” said Khartoum’s defence minister Abdulrahim Mohammed Hussein, quoted by the official Suna news agency.