August 31, 2012 (JUBA) - Traditional leaders from the contested oil region of Abyei, which lies on the Sudan-South Sudan border, vehemently denied on Friday reports alleging that a group of youth had attacked traders reportedly members of the rival Arab nomadic tribe of Missiriya.
- Residents at the market in the town of Abyei, central Sudan, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007.(AP)
"There is nothing. We are fine. Situation is relatively calm. Our people are returning”, Kuol Deng Kuol, a paramount chief of the Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms of Abyei told Sudan Tribune by phone on Friday.
Majith Yak Kur, a leading member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Abyei, told the official SUNA on Thursday that Dinka youth, instigated by the local leaders of the South Sudan’s SPLM, attempted to attack Misseriya traders in Abyei market.
He said that the Ethiopian peacekeepers intervened prevent the escalation and moved the youth out of the market, adding the situation is however is tense and can break out ant any moment.
Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify the allegations made by both sides although international sources in Abyei said they saw youth groups being pulled away from the market place on Thursday afternoon.
“We saw youth being separated and pulled away on Thursday. It [is] like they were quarreling over something which they could not resolve but it was unfortunate that we did not know what actually was happening because it did not carry on for a very long time”, an aid worker said on Friday.
The status of Abyei was to be resolved by referendum in January but the two sides could not agree on whether members of the Misseriya tribe should be accorded voting rights. Some members of the Misseriya enter the region with their cattle for many months of the year.
South Sudan has insisted that only the Dink Ngok should be allowed to decide whether or not Abyei should move south of the border and join the year-old nation.
Local sources claimed a quarrel involving two businessmen from Sudan broke out with two youth groups from the Dinka Ngok in the market. The actual cause of the quarrel has not been established.
Chied Kuol downplayed significance of the incident which many fear could generate security concerns in the area. Sudan Tribune’s attempts to reach the Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA) for comment failed on Friday.
The Ethiopian peacekeepers were deployed in Abyei as part of an agreement last year following clashes in the run-up to South Sudan’s independence. Sudan’s army occupied large parts of the area forcing over 100,000 to be displaced. The two sides are struggling to form a new Abyei administration, while returnees continue to arrive in the area.
The Abyei area, described by some analysts as the Sudans Kashmir, in reference to the apparaent intractability of the dispute, the high passions the issue raises and the possibility that renewed fighting in the area could drag the recently divorced nations back to war.
Nyanaguek Kuol, a native of Abyei currently serving as a Minister of Information in the Warrap State administration denied reports that a fight had broke out between Dinka Ngok youth and Missiriya traders in the area.
"I have not heard this information even though I have been talking to people living in Abyei. There is nothing like that. There are no Missiriya in Abyei town. They have moved away northward with their cattle in June. Those in the market are traders from areas in the north, most of them are from Darfur and I do not think our people would attack them”, Nyanaguek told Sudan Tribune on Friday.
The minister called for finding a "suitable and negotiated solution" to the ongoing stand-off between the two states over disputed region in order to avoid a return to war.
"Violence can never settle any dispute. There can only be a peaceful dialogue as solution to the issues of contention. This must include measures aimed at building confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature”, she explained.