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Trauma, poverty barriers to peace in Abyei: report

August 29, 2013 (JUBA) – The conflict in Abyei will not be resolved politically without placing attention to the local conditions of the population on the ground, a new report on the disputed region says

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The report, entitled, “Stabilizing Abyei: Trauma and the Economic Challenges to Peace,” urges that any intervention towards attaining peace in Abyei, should move beyond humanitarian relief and instead focus on transitions that would result in long-term stability.

Kush Inc released the report, which provides analysis of the displaced Dinka Ngok people, their attitudes towards the Arab Messeriya occupying the same region and possibilities for peace in the region.

According to the report, since the May, 2011 invasion of Abyei, recovery has been slow with approximately half of the internally displaced people remaining displaced.

Insecurity, it stressed, has persisted culminating in the death of Dinka Ngok paramount chief, Kuol Deng Kuol in May of this year. Also cited in the report is the recent threat by the Misseriya to war against South Sudan over its preparation for the referendum.

"With the bleak picture painted by the report, coupled with the lack of agreement on the conduct of referendum in October, Abyei will be at the brink unless the international community takes affirmative action,” warned Luka Biong Deng, executive director of Kush.

Meanwhile a recent survey conducted among the displaced Ngok Dinka population was reportedly shocking, with poverty, stress and low standards of living said to be at their peak.

The assessment intended to measure the people’s socio-economic and psychological conditions and see if there was a relationship between the population’s conditions and their views regarding the Misseriya and also of peace and reconciliation.

“We found very little variation among the people in terms of attitudes, income or ownership. The situation for the vast majority was grim, having lost their homes and valuables and without real opportunity for recovery” said Belkys López, lead author of the report.

Close to all of the individuals surveyed, 98.8% lost one or more real estate properties and over half of the sample indicated a monthly family income of 600 SSP, she added.

Also assessed, the report noted, were levels of trauma, which involved measuring the presence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD may reportedly occur in a person after experiencing or witnessing life threatening events, with symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, irritability or bouts of rage.

At least 38% of the respondents reportedly, the report says, met the criteria for PTSD, while approximately half of the women surveyed or 49% met the same criteria.

“These numbers are alarming and the levels among the women point to a serious health crisis,” psychologist and co-author Hazel Spears cautioned.

The authors of the report, however, recommend building the population’s resilience through practical initiatives and empowering citizens so that they may lead the area’s recovery.

“Accordingly, development efforts for the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya are essential to the regions stability and would help create an environment conducive for the implementation of a final political resolution,” it noted.

Abyei was meant to hold its referendum simultaneously with that of South Sudan in January 2011, but the two Sudan failed to agree on who was entitled to vote in the plebiscite to determine the final status of the region.