Issues over borders and residency rights have delayed Abyei's vote, which was due on January 9th [File: EPA]

A tribal leader in Sudan's flashpoint region of Abyei has given a war warning, six days before south Sudan votes on whether to split from the north.

Bishtina Mohammed El Salam of the Misseriya, one of two dominant tribes in Abyei, said his people will not accept joining the south following the January 9 referendum.

His tribe shares the region with the Dinka, who say they want to join the south.

"If the Dinka take this decision - to annex Abyei to the south - there will be an immediate war without any excuse," El Salam told Al Jazeera.

"We think they should be reasonable and think about it. They should know that those who are pushing them to take that decision will not give them any back-up."

Under a 2005 peace agreement, a separate referendum is to be held for Abyei's people to opt to join the north or the south.

But issues over borders and residency rights have delayed that vote, which was due on January 9th.

Mutual fear

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, reporting from Abyei, said there is a situation of mutual fear between the two tribes in the region.

"The Dinka have been talking about a local referendum they are going to organise on their own outside the framework of the peace agreement between the north and the south," he said.

"That has stoked fears among the Misseriya that the Dinka are about to annex Abyei to the south. So the Misseriya are doing this in anticipation, to send a serious warning to the Dinka and prevent them from such action."

Abyei sits on the country's ill-defined internal border and is claimed by both sides. Both north and south jointly govern the region under a special administrative status.

The south holds a symbolic attachment to the region, as many of its leading figures come from there, including Salva Kiir, the leader of South Sudan's semi-autonomous government.

But the Misseriya nomads from the north claim the right to use its pastures for grazing.

Source: Al Jazeera