Washington, DC — In the wake of renewed violence in the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan, a new Enough Project policy alert warns that intercommunal attacks with unclear degrees of state support are risking a conflagration within Abyei that threatens to drag both countries back into conflict.
Looming Crisis: Open Wounds in Abyei Increase Risk of New War urges UNISFA to facilitate demilitarization of the area and calls on national, regional, and international stakeholders to move to resolve the final status of Abyei.
Abyei is home to the Ngok Dinka semi-sedentary communities, and the nomadic Misseriya migrate across the area annually to graze their cattle and access water sources. Due to long-term grievances that the promised referendum will never occur and Abyei has been abandoned, the Ngok Dinka are now challenging the Misseriya's traditional, annual migration south ahead of the rainy season. The current violence is threatening the livelihood of the Misseriya and exacerbating already high tensions.
Since early February, attacks on communities and cattle have been reported in the villages of Makir, Athony, Marial Achak, Todac, and Dungop, killing dozens and causing hundreds of civilians to flee Abyei.
The policy alert states that state and non-state actors have been active in and around the Abyei area, including 660 forces from South Sudan's SPLA, 150 Sudanese police officers, and non-state actors and rebel groups loyal to Khartoum and Juba.
Maiwen Dot Pheot, Enough Research Associate and author of the policy alert, says,
"These political maneuvers come at a very expensive cost for civilians in the Abyei area. The Ngok Dinka people who were gradually returning to their areas for the last two years are now being displaced again. On the other hand, the Misseriya nomads will face challenges moving southward due to fears of reprisal attacks by the Ngok Dinka. The international community must redouble efforts to help local community leaders and governments in Juba and Khartoum to find a lasting solution to this potential powder keg."
In order to prevent the escalation of violence, the policy alert calls for the demilitarization of the region, which Sudan and South Sudan committed to three years ago. However, while demilitarization could quell future violence, a lasting solution to Abyei's conflict depends on determining the final status of the area. Therefore, the policy brief calls on Sudan and South Sudan to resume talks on Abyei and urges international stakeholders, including the African Union Peace and Security Council, to push for a lasting solution to the Abyei conflict based on the AUHIP's proposal on Abyei. Only through the resolution of Abyei's political status will the people of the area be able to return to peaceful coexistence.
Read the report, "Looming Crisis: Open Wounds in Abyei Increase Risk of New War": http://www.enoughproject.org/files/LoomingCrisis_OpenWoundsinAbyeiInc reaseRiskofNewWar.pdf