Home | News    Wednesday 2 January 2008

Abyei is potential flashpoint in Sudan’s north-south peace


January 1, 2008 (ABYEI, Sudan) — This ramshackle town of mud huts and dirt roads is swarming with returning African refugees, Arab militiamen and rival troops from north and south Sudan — all eyeing each other in fear of a spark that could detonate the volatile mix.

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Residents at the market in the town of Abyei, central Sudan, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. (AP)

Nearby lies a prize that all are eager to win: some of Sudan’s richest oil fields.

Claimed by north and south, Abyei has become a potential flashpoint that could wreck the fragile peace between the ethnic African south and Sudan’s Arab-dominated government in the capital Khartoum. The two sides made peace in 2005 after more than two decades of civil war.

A return to the war could plunge all of Sudan into chaos and exacerbate the separate conflict in the western Darfur region which has claimed more than 200,000 lives since 2003.

"The only hope I have is that the fighting won’t be started by our side," Bol Dau Deng, the local coordinator of the government’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, told The Associated Press, referring to southerners.

Deng is a southerner but is in a precarious position between the two sides. His commission, meant to help returning ethnic African refugees who fled the civil war, represents both the southern administration and the Khartoum government. With Abyei’s status unclear, he is by default the highest-ranking — and just about only — government official in the town.

Abyei lies just north of the boundary line between north and south Sudan set by Sudan’s British colonial rulers in the early 20th century. But the line is disputed, and southerners want the area incorporated into their autonomous zone, created by the 2005 peace agreement.

Many of the south’s former rebel leaders come from Abyei and frequently vow to reclaim the area. But the government in Khartoum, unwilling to let go of lucrative oil fields nearby, has rejected a proposed new boundary recently drawn by an international commission that would abut Abyei in the south.

The dispute has already shaken the peace deal once. Last October, southern cabinet ministers walked out of the unity government over a number of disputes, including Abyei — raising fears the peace could collapse.

The ministers rejoined the government in late December, having settled most of their differences — except for Abyei.

The 2005 peace deal was a rare, landmark success in Sudan, coming as the separate, though similar conflict in Darfur was escalating. In Darfur, ethnic African rebels rose up against the Khartoum government in 2003, sparking a conflict that shows no sign of ending. A new U.N.-African peacekeeping force was launched in Darfur on Monday, but many fear it will not be strong enough to stop the violence amid resistance from Sudan’s government.

If the north-south peace should collapse and fighting between the two sides resumes, the resulting chaos would likely intensify the conflict in Darfur as well.

For now, Abyei, 500 miles southwest of Khartoum, remains tense, with both sides jockeying for position. The area holds important oil reserves. The International Crisis Group estimates that oil fields in the area brought in about $670 million for Sudan in 2006, about 13 percent of its income from oil exports that year.

Since 2005, tens of thousands of ethnic African residents driven out by the war have flooded back into Abyei and its surroundings. They are returning from refugee camps farther south with the implicit backing of the southern government, which wants the area to vote in favor of the south in national elections planned for 2009.

The influx has catapulted the area’s population from nearly zero before 2005 to about 90,000 — the vast majority of them returning ethnic Africans from the Ngok Dinka tribe.

"This is our home, we want to be here now that there is peace," said Magig Toung Ngor, a Dinka chief in the nearby village of Dokra, built to host some of the returnees.

"It’s important for our future," he said.

A southern victory in Abyei in the 2009 election would then allow the town to choose independence from Khartoum along with the rest of southern Sudan in a referendum planned for 2011 under the peace deal.

The northern government, in turn, is counting on a tribe of Arab nomads known as the Misseriah, who graze their cattle around Abyei, to vote in the town and side with the north. But the Misseriah have splintered, with one armed militia from the tribe growing hostile to the Khartoum government and now supporting the southerners.

Meanwhile, hundreds of heavily armed southern and northern forces sit uneasily in and around the town, raising fears that friction could spark a new clash — or that one side or another could move to resolve the dispute by force.

Under the peace accord, all troops are supposed to withdraw from the border zone to allow it to be patrolled by 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers along with joint units of northern and southern forces. The two sides only began allowing the U.N. to patrol around Abyei in December.

But the northern army’s 31st Brigade, with 600 troops, remains in the town. Its commander, Brig. Gen. Abdel-Bagi Abdallah, says he has no intention of leaving until an agreement is reached on the north-south boundary.

The redeployment "will never happen, except if the president says so," Abdallah told The Associated Press at the northern army’s barracks, one of the only modern compounds in a town otherwise made of a sprawling maze of mud and thatched huts known as "tukuls."

Abdallah insisted the situation in the town was "stable."

The former southern rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army have a brigade posted some seven miles to the south. But many of its soldiers drift in and out of town to visit relatives.

Col. David Ogucholi, the ranking SPLA officer in Abyei, said it was "very, very important" that the Sudanese military pull back "to avoid incidents."

Amid the stalemate, there is effectively no government to provide services to the burgeoning population of refugees.

Deng’s commission is meant to do so, but it has little to offer. His office is empty except for a computer still in its packaging because there is no electricity.

The U.N.’s World Food Program feeds 19,000 of the returned refugees.


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  • 2 January 2008 05:35, by Urbano Tito Tipo

    Abyei is a dinka village inside Missireya homeland in South Khordofan. It should not be a concern to anybody. They have their own protocol which they should handle instead of dragging the all south into another war.

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    • 2 January 2008 06:21, by Deng Thiak Adut

      You sounded like Bona Malual: You pronounced Abyei Well that is "Dinka Tribes", had their "own protocol"and their concerned should not "dragged the war into South". With respect Tito, I don’t think that you could logically argued that Abyei issues should not dragged us into war; By definition, Ngok belong to South if you know the history very well, and by analogy, how could we abandoned our brother because their’s issues will once again leads war. War is inevitable brother. Arabs, or Arabised are only interest in oil and not people. the movement we turn our back to Abyei, they will slaughter by Arabs. I don’t think that it is good idea to leave them. we had shared loses together before CPA if you had knowledge of war.

      Warning: Abyei Issues is not a simple said as you wishes, but lies in legal, ethnicity, and broader forum for intellectual debates, and not merely no go zone.

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      • 2 January 2008 15:15, by Urbano Tito Tipo

        I knew what I was writing. I did work in Abyei before CPA could be signed. What drag me to this debate is the current politics when certain individual politicians are targetted because of tribal affiliation. The withdrawal of SPLM Ministers from GONU was not necessarily because of Abyei. Abyei was used as a cover up. Abyei has a protocol and to be handle by presidency in which Salva Kiir is a member. When our beloved leader Dr. John Garang signed this protocol he knew how to handle it. But deeply in my heart I know the problem. But certain people like de Manyiel, Magiir Kenyany and others put arcticles on net abusing others then let us continue until such a time when every settle down. We do need to go tribal as general policy of SPLM otherwise, going back to war is there.

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        • 3 January 2008 08:20, by Koor Garang

          I think Mr. Tito need to see a psychiatrist or stop writing because when you were in Abyei you didnt really spend time to study the people . you only spend your time with the people you called "Naath ( Nuer )or Lam people".do some research before you talk. why? because you called (Nuer)Naath and you called Dinkas , "Dinka". before you called them Dinka, you need to learn the other name. the might be called Dinka by the enemy but the are called Monyjang. when you are in Abyei, Abyei was used by the people that you favor because they don’t want to fight for the freedom of Southerners. they were busy collaborating with enemy.
          Koor G. , USA

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          • 3 January 2008 09:04, by Urbano Tito Tipo

            Mr Koor have a good time in the USA. You are no longer a dinka but nationalized american leaving in pass galaxy. I know monyjang and even speak. I have nothing to do with Naath (Nuer). I was raised in dinka land, went to school in dinka land. What I am concern about which you do not know is the tribal politica practice by your folks whom left in Sudan. They are going to push down the peace by killing Murle in Bor and gunning down equatirian police officers in Yambio. Detaining Cdr Mabuto Mamuur without charges. Your folks will be a source of insecurity in the south. Concerning Abyei village in Missireya homeland in South Khordofan, there is nothing mentioned in conptempory histroy of south Sudan that Abyei was once upon a time was part of the south. Thank God you Abyei protocol. You dinka should stick to it and leave the rest of the south alone. You have oil in Abyei therefore you rich people. Abyei may not become part of the south in 2011 is south separate from the south.

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            • 3 January 2008 20:27, by Koor Garang

              Thank you very much Mr.Tito. I am Monyjang and I will die Monyjang. I am very sorry that you were raised wrong way in Dinka land. I wish you would had adapted the Monyjang mercy heart. We Monyjang, don’t killed for the sake of differencies or excluded people. we are loving people who like to fight to protect the weak one like you. I am sorry for those who were killed ,they were maybe innocent and their lifes was just taken. Cdr Mabuto, was a good guy but he turned his head to the enemy and turned his butt to his brothers Southerners. we have people who lost their lifes but we don’t just sit there and cry like bitches and put a blam on others.we can corrected it if we come together as a Southerners, not Dinka or whatever. our country is beyind , our people are suffering because we have mental dissorted people like you brother who take things and generalized people for it. I am a Southerner and than Monyjang.Peace and love be with you!!!!!!.

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    • 2 January 2008 08:04, by Juach D Juach

      We are prepared to go back to war in the name of Abyei because we both brought the CPA and not ghost participants like Tito residing in urban Europe or North America far from realities on the ground!.

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      • 2 January 2008 15:25, by Urbano Tito Tipo

        Sorry brother, I live on South Sudan. If you think Dinka and Naath (Nuer) wants to back to war then that is your problem. Because you do not know and my back ground, I have worked in Abyei, Kwajok, Bentiu and many parts of South Sudan. I know what I am writing. War will be there. Most of your dinka are stealing money in Juba and transefering them to Australia and USA in preparation to go and settle when war starts next time. Time will tell whom will Dinka and Naath defeat in the next war. Lets us keep this debate alive and see what happens. There will be no chance to see or even meet you. But on your good work buddy. I am in for more.

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        • 3 January 2008 00:27, by Juach D Juach

          Thank you Mr Urban. In my understanding, you aren’t Urban but Aban from the kingdom of Lam akol not the shilluk as a community.

          And the fact that you said you were in Abyei during the conclusion of the CPA means a lot to critical thinkers like myself. Now am free because i’ve already found out who you are? and your motives of writing on this discussion forum!

          Good luck and lets see if we can give Abyei up because of what you have cooked with your masters wherever they are ...!

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          • 3 January 2008 02:57, by Deng Thiak Adut

            Tito: Once again, I am not convinced with your arguements. I am a Dinka, and I lost more just like any other sudanese from the south, but that does not mean that I have to turn my back for things which my father’s and my brother’s died for. I agreed that many dinka’s had plundered lots of money from Juba and buying house overseas. what I dont understand is how come; the more experienced man like you still being blinded by truth?

            Those stealing money in Juba are not immunes for crimes if we all work together and bring them to Justice. I lived in Australia, and I am still very exposed to the suffering my people facing. I can’t forget 1989 in Ethiopia, I can’t forget, the returns to sudan, the war and hunger. the long walk from Pachela to Moli Ando, The Pagari couped by Gundit, the Kapoeta, the Torit, the Red Army served with me.
            The were not dinka, but includes even Nuba, Wodok and so on.

            Tribalism is a mental illness, and I believe we should ought to check our conscience my friends. lets not forgot the fallen one and fought over money. I believes, You and I can work hard with our hands like forefathers and be rich.

            Retrieves from Tribalism my friend.

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            • 3 January 2008 05:57, by Urbano Tito Tipo

              You are rational in your reply but short of telling your folks in Sudan to stop unnecessary campaigns and do constructive work in developing the South. The south will need expertise like you who still leave in Australia. Tribalism is not good and tribal politics is even worse. Unfortunately this is what is going on in the South. I was raised in Gogrial when to Nyerkec School then Kwojok. I am fully aware of what kind of tribalism being practise by top SPLM dinka politicians. Have ever heard Arthur Akwein was detained in prison but was release by SPLA dinka soldiers. Do you know SPLA dinka soldiers killed innocent civilian Murles in Bor town and mudered equatorians police officers in Yambio. I fully agree with you that tribalism should be eradicated from the south but how. Do you know the senerio why SPLM pull out from GONU was tribal politics and not because Abyei protocol was not implememted. Why did go they join the GONU now without Abyei protocol being implemented. All their demands are not also implemented. SAF is still in Upper Nile and Unity States. The borders are not yet demarcated. Unfortunately you leave in Australia but not south to be familair with realities. Abyei is an issue that needs a separate folder which I am still working on. I am still going through some research papers including books publish by Dr. Francis Deng. Facts have be to uncover for Abyei. If Dr. John Garang were to alive, he could have solve the problem. However, brother sorry for writing these words. I do all heartedly accept your opinion and respect it.

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          • 3 January 2008 05:30, by Urbano Tito Tipo

            Mr. Dinka/Naath
            You sound like a hudloom to me. Possibly uneducated also and uncilized dinka. There is nothing called kingdom of Lam. Sorry, I can not go into an augrument with such useless person like you. Have you ever thought Abyei was not part of South Sudan as of 1.1.1956? Read my article in papers soon.

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            • 4 January 2008 01:25, by Deng Thiak Adut

              I am disappointed to hear that SPLA did slaughtered Murle. For Your information, I am from Bor, and did experienced Murle violent act of Child kidnaping, animals, and even killing. We people from Bor had suffered enough, and because of insecurity continuously affecting our people, it worth whiles taking times to clearly identify who were penetrators here: Why our children? Does people from Bor deserves to be protected by SPLA? How did they ended up in the same hospital? weren’t they, the same people that were wound in the fight? How Could you possibly think that you can treats them men? Dignity is not possible at war.

              The question you must decide is: Could/would a reasonably man in such a circumstance be provokes to had intend to killed them Murle? It is subjective test: which look at the whole circumstances and each evens form the composites of act. You tell me, what could/would you have done to stop the blood shed? mental elements is not enough with out intentions. ##Revenge is the word## which is wrong, but Please answer my questions dear Tito.

              We are not evils tribes like Murle and others but peace welcoming and patriotic people, very proud of sacrifices we made to larger sudan. we deserves to be treated just like other tribes Mr Tito. We don’t even belong in the government no more. we represent the tiny minority and that does mean that Murle Should be allowed in our town to killed, and kidnaps.

              I am afraid that will not happened my friend. We don’t hate Murle or anyone tribes, but in deed maintains to wanting peace and enjoy the freedom.

              Abyei issues is sensitives and It would be appropriate to seek their opinions about 2011 Referendum. I guess that is appropriate way of solving this issue. It does not matter if the Dinka or not, as long they want to southerners, we will support them for good course.

              Corruption: I am always different from other people, and if you read my other posts, you will see clearly that I support life imprisonment for multiples corruption crimes. It would also be appropriates to enact a legislation to protect public from monsters from milking fruits of our labour. Taking correctives steps to prevent such act occurring must involves justice and fair trials. those who intuits others to stealing should have corrects crimes sanctions. punitive or deterrence must be supported by all community and uniform Laws must be enacted and scrubs off customary laws.

              Those are my positions.
              Everyone Unborn child, every animal, every everyone that did not holds gun had indirectly or directly suffered in this war as long they are southerners. They all deserves thank you, deserves to be rewarded. Everyone must be equal before the law, and no law for Dinka, Nuer, shulluk, Anuak, Kuku, Topasa, Murle and and do on, but a law for the South.

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              • 7 January 2008 08:29, by Urbano Tito Tipo

                Thanks Mr. Deng Adwut. Your analysis need apprecaition. Sometimes I am emotional because of certain writings put forth and certain individuals.

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