Juba — South Sudan has accused the government of neighbouring Sudan with which it contests the ownership of the oil-producing region of Abyei of carrying out a deadly attack on Friday.
UN peacekeepers patrol the streets of Abyei town in the contested oil-producing area claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan (Photo: UNMIS/Stuart Price)
Two people were killed and three other injured during the attack, which occurred in the Nyincuor area on Friday morning, Deng Biong, a government official assigned Abyei file by South Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit told Sudan Tribune in an exclusive interview.
Biong said authorities are yet to determine who carried out the attack, although it is believed Sudan is behind it.
Biong revealed that United Nations Interim force for Abyei (UNISFA) had been alerted by community members of the looming attack, but had failed to deploy peace keeping forces to the area in advance.
"Actually UNISFA accepted in principle to deploy, unfortunately we do not know what happened that they could not deploy until the area was attacked despite being notified in advance," Biong said.
South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson Colonel Philip Aguer said armed elements loyal to the government in Khartoum had been carrying out attacks in the area since the former withdrew in compliance with a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution demanding immediate pulling out of all armed forces in accordance with the 20 June 2011 agreement on the area.
Aguer has denied allegations by Khartoum and the UN that SPLA forces are present in Abyei.
"The SPLA forces have no presence in Abyei. We have said this time and again. Our forces never returned to Abyei area after withdrawal in 2011," he said.
"It is the Misseriya [tribe] with some armed elements and militia group loyal to the government in Sudan which has been carrying out the attack in the area. Their presence in the area illegally is justified by the killing of the paramount chief of the Ngok Dinka," he added.
General Kuol Monyluak, head of the South Sudan supported local administration, has also confirmed the attack.
The government of Sudan is working to invade the area once again through such attacks and killing of innocent civilians yet the international community is keeping silence," Monyluak said on Friday.
He said community members remained determined to remain in their ancestral areas despite attempts by the Sudanese government to terrorise them with regular attacks on their settlements.
"Our people have not fled. The young people are in the area. They are fully determined to remain there despite these threats by the government of Sudan. They have refused to run way because this is where our ancestors were born and grew up," Monyluak said.
Aguer said it completely unacceptable for Sudan to use force in order to change the demographics of the area, calling on the international community to give more attention to the issue.
In a report to the UN Security Council , the secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said the inter South Sudanese conflict led to the increase of tensions between Dinka and Misseriya during the "already tense period of annual migration".
The report also mentioned the presence of unauthorised armed elements from the Sudanese and south Sudanese sides stressing that it constitutes a violations of the 20 June 2011 Agreement.
"The Sudan Oil Police continued to maintain approximately 120 to 150 personnel inside the Diffra oil complex in the northern Abyei Area," the report says.
"UNISFA observed the presence of around 660 military elements of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the South Sudan National Police Service", which arrived during the organisation of the unilateral referendum organised by the Ngok Dinka community last year.
The SPLA and National Police Service elements informed UNISFA that they had been ordered to remain deployed in the area after the completion of the unilateral referendum", the report further says, pointing out that their presence "poses serious security risks to Misseriya nomads migrating through the area".
Armed elements from Misseriya and Ngok Dinka tribes clashed on Saturday 1st March in Laki Al-Abiad area in north Abyei. At least 10 Arab Misseriya tribesmen were killed and 20 others injured.
On 3 March, the Sudanese co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), Al-Khair Al-Fahim, briefed Sudan's 1st VP Bakri Hassan Salih, on the conditions in the region and called South Sudan government to withdraw its forces to the south of the 1956 border line.