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ABYEI - 7 May 2013

Chief Kuol buried; Presidents urge both sides to ‘overcome’ incident

The late Dinka Ngok paramount chief was buried yesterday in the disputed oil-rich Abyei region on the border between South Sudan in a ceremony attended by national and international representatives.

South Sudan’s official delegation to Kuol Deng Kuol’s funeral was headed by the national minister for cabinet affairs, Deng Alor Kuol and the SPLM’s Secretary-General, Pagan Amum Ukec. The late chief was buried next to the grave of his father.

Kuol was killed on Saturday by what is claimed were a group of armed Misseriya fighters.  A companion and two Ethiopian peacekeeping troops who were escorting Kuol were also killed as well as 17 Misseriya fighters, according to a statement issued by the Sudanese Foreign Ministry.

There were riots in Abyei yesterday following news of the death which resulted in the injury of 3 people and the destruction of a number of homes as well as Abyei market.

However, South Sudan’s spokesman, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, noted the determination of Kiir and Bashir to bypass the events in Abyei during a phone conversation and try to maintain stability.  Benjamin called upon members of the Dinka Ngok community and the entire nation of South Sudan to give the two presidents an opportunity to find a peaceful way to overcome the tragedy.

In its statement, Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs announced its desire to hold those responsible accountable for the deaths, calling for a comprehensive, transparent and fair investigation of the incident.

Sudan reiterated its commitment to fully implementing all cooperation agreements signed with South Sudan in March as well as its determination to implement these on the ground.

Al Khair Al Fahim, the Sudanese co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, announced that they are awaiting reports from the military oversight committee and UN forces (UNISFA) for the committee’s review before taking any decisions regarding the attack.

While in Khartoum, the Misseriya federation head, Mohamed Katir Juma, called for UNISFA to be removed from the region for failing to protect citizens.

Jafar Dawal-Beit, a Dinka Ngok leader in Khartoum and chief of political affairs with the ruling party NCP, criticized and condemned the killing and accused Misseriya militias of being responsible.

Meanwhile, official spokesman for NCP, Yassir Yusuf, conveyed his party’s deepest condolences to the families of the victims and called on Juba not to rush to blaming the Sudanese government before investigating the incident further.

“Now we are in the process of gathering the information and we are obligated to open an investigation into this issue because there are multiple stories from different sources and people should not pre-judge verdicts,” Yusuf added.

Related: Juba demands investigation of killing of Abyei leader (7 May 2013)