1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. East Africa
  4. Sudan

Clashes and demos in Abyei

SPLA soldiers redeploy south from the Abyei area in line with the road map to resolve the Abyei crisis. Sudan. June 2008.
(Timothy Mckulka/UNMIS)

Tension over the future of Abyei, a flashpoint region roughly the size Lebanon on Sudan’s north-south border, erupted into armed violence and street demonstrations this week.



On 5 July, gunmen mounted an attack near the village of Tajalei, about 30km northeast of Abyei town, killing five people, a police officer and four civilians.



Abyei Chief Administrator Deng Arop Kuol, from the Ngok Dinka community whose traditional chiefdoms make up the region, blamed Misseriya leaders and accused them of enjoying the support of Khartoum.



“These attacks are being organized in order to re-settle the Misseriya in Abyei in the lands of Ngok Dinka,” he said by telephone.



Many of the pastoralist Misseriya, who enjoy grazing rights within Abyei, sided with the government during Sudan’s most recent (1983-2005) civil war, while the Ngok Dinka mainly supported the southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).



Deng Arop Kuol also accused the Misseriya of trying to stall key components of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord: demarcation of Abyei’s border and registration for a referendum that will determine whether Abyei joins Southern Sudan - likely to vote for secession after its own referendum in January 2011 - or retains its semi-autonomous status in the north.



Also on 5 July, thousands of Abyei town residents took to the streets to call for border demarcation and protest the non-formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission. A few days earlier, months behind schedule, the similar commission for Southern Sudan was formed.



The crowd also petitioned for local elections to be held as soon as possible, for the withdrawal of Sudanese Armed Forces and allied militias within Abyei, and for compensation to be paid to victims of May 2008 clashes which killed 89 and displaced 90,000 people.












Displaced people fleeing fighting in Abyei, now in Agok. Sudan. May 2008. Renewed hostilities between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Abyei are likely to worsen the humanitarian needs in the region and could affect

Tim McKulka/UNMIS
Displaced people fleeing fighting in Abyei, now in Agok. Sudan. May 2008. Renewed hostilities between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Abyei are likely to worsen the humanitarian needs in the region and could affect ...
http://www.irinnews.org/photo
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Clashes and demos in Abyei
Displaced people fleeing fighting in Abyei, now in Agok. Sudan. May 2008. Renewed hostilities between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Abyei are likely to worsen the humanitarian needs in the region and could affect ...


Photo: Tim McKulka/UNMIS
People displaced during past fighting in Abyei. Gunmen mounted an attack on 5 July near Tajalei village, about 30km northeast of Abyei town, killing five people, a police officer and four civilians (file photo)

According to a petition from civil society groups, these measures would “ensure stability and security and prevent any future attacks on innocent civilians like the recent barbarians’ attacks on villagers in Marial Achak and Maker carried out by NCP [National Congress Party, in power in Khartoum] ally militias.”



Left behind



Some in Abyei feel the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the rebels’ political wing, now in power in the south, has neglected their interests.



On 6 July Arop Madut Arop, a member of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly from Abyei, interrupted a press conference given by a southern minister.



“The two [referendum] commissions were supposed to be treated together, in the sense that in the future also the referendums will be conducted also simultaneously. What happened?” demanded Arop. “Why are the two referendums being treated separately?”



“I’m appealing to the international community to come in immediately to the rescue, to put pressure on the NCP government to stop this encroachment,” Arop told the media present, referring to the allegations of Misseriya re-settlement inside Abyei.



“If it is not brought to an end, of course it will drag [in other] people because the Abyei people are not alone. They may take up arms. Their people in the SPLM, SPLA may defect and go and join them. And suddenly, the northern army will also come in, and what will happen is that in a short time, within a few days, Sudan is back to war,” he warned.



Related Stories: Abyei briefing

Abyei still fragile as Darfur conflict spills into Kordofan

Key post-referendum issues



ab/am/cb

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Help us be the transformation we’d like to see in the news industry

The current journalistic model is broken: Audiences are demanding that the hierarchical, elite-led system of news-gathering and presentation be dismantled in favour of a more inclusive and holistic model based on more equitable access to information and more nuanced and diverse narratives.

The business model is also broken, with many media going bankrupt during the pandemic – despite their information being more valuable than ever – because of a dependence on advertisers. 

Finally, exploitative and extractive practices have long been commonplace in media and other businesses.

We think there is a better way. We want to build something different.

Our new five-year strategy outlines how we will do so. It is an ambitious vision to become a transformative newsroom – and one that we need your support to achieve.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian by making a regular contribution to our work - and help us deliver on our new strategy.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join