July 17, 2014 (JUBA) – Officials and community leaders from the contested oil-producing region of Abyei have accused the Sudanese government of carrying out a raid on Thursday in which a number of people were killed.
- An officer from the UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei (UNISFA) on patrol in the disputed region, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan (AFP)
Justice Deng Biong Mijak, senior member of South Sudan’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) who has responsibility for the Abyei file, alleged on Thursday that the attack was carried out by a combined armed force of rival Arab Misseriya nomads and the South Sudan United Movement under the leadership of Thomas Thiel, a South Sudanese militia leader allied to the Sudanese government in the area.
According to Mijak, militia fighters armed with PKM sub-machine guns attacked a Ngok Dinka cattle camp at Gong e Mou near Abyei town about 1.30am, attempting to loot around 400 head of cattle.
Local forces resisted, forcing the attackers to leave some of the cattle behind at the camp. The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) later intervened at Wun e Ruok, with the attackers forced to abandon 250 heads of cattle as they fled.
UNISFA also intercepted a small group of attackers at Nyin e Cuoor after they crossed the river Nyamuora, with a further 35 head of cattle recovered.
Mijak commended UNISFA for taking swift action to recover the cows allegedly stolen during the raid.
“Unlike in the previous incidents at Nyong-Reng and Abyein-jongyom, this time United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei reacted positively in defence of the Ngok Dinka people and their properties,” he said.
“All the cattle looted were immediately recovered. We thank UNISFA forces and commend them for that responsible action,” he added.
He said the leadership in the area also commended the brave actions of local citizen Mayot Deng in defending the camp from the attackers.
There remain conflicting reports over the number of dead and injured.
Mijak said five people were killed in the attack, naming the casualties as Chan Chol Deng Bokor, Lual Ariththok, Giel Bol Giel, Mawut from the Twic Dinka community and Nyanyai Malueth Akec, a three-year-old girl from the Twic Dinka community residing in Abyei.
The two wounded residents were named as Kiir Agueek and Bol Giel, whose father, Giel Bol Giel, was among those reportedly killed in the raid.
Mijak said the search was continuing for the attackers, many of whom had fled into the bush.
Juac Agok, deputy head of the SPLM in the area, has also confirmed the raid, revising the number of wounded to five, saying a number of those listed as dead had in fact survived.
Abyei, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, has long been a flashpoint for violence between the rival parties and remains a major unresolved issue since the South’s secession from the north in 2011.
The conflict has recently been further compounded by the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December last year which has restricted the movements of the Misseriya nomads, who periodically enter the area to graze their cattle.
The Arab Misseriya nomads, who ordinarily travel to areas in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states to graze their cattle, have been unable to do so as a result of the current instability.
This has placed increasing pressure on local resources, particularly grazing and water point areas in Abyei’s south, leading to tensions with the Ngok Dinka, who considers themselves the rightful owners of the area.
In 2012, the African Union (AU) mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei, stipulating that only those residing permanently in the area would be allowed to take part in the plebiscite decide the fate of the area.
The Sudanese government, however, rejected the AU proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock, saying it ignored the eligibility of the Misseriya tribe.
The Ngok Dinka went ahead with a unilateral referendum last October, voting overwhelmingly in favour of joining South Sudan. The result has not been recognised by the Sudanese government or the international community.