Following the succession and the division of Africa’s biggest country, tensions have been strained over the border lines of North and South Sudan. The oil rich and fertile Abyei region has been claimed by both countries. The largely Muslim North supports the Arab Misseriya people who graze cattle in Abyei for considerable periods of each year and the predominately Christian South has backed those Dinka Ngok communities that resides in the region throughout the year. The North has proclaimed it will not recognise the Southern state unless it gives up its claim to Abyei and the Southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are equally keen to attain control over the region.
With independence due on the 9th of July following the January referendum it remained unclear as to which side Abyei would fall, however after days of artillery fire an an air raid, Northern Sudanese forces appeared to have taken the disputed border town of Abyei after fierce fighting with the SPLA. The Sudanese Armed Forces, (SAF) the Northern Army, in seizing Abyei have defied the South claim’s who have since denounced the act as one of war. A Southern military spokesman has told he BBC that the Khartoum attacked the region with 5,000 troops killing both civilians and Southern soldiers.
Violence escalated in the border area leaving 42 wounded and led to the displacement of 20,000 people fleeing to Abok, a considerable distance south from Abyei. Fears have escalated that clashes could spark another civil war, UN Security Council is in Sudan hoping to pacify the situation. The UN has described the incident as a criminal and has claimed the Northern troops, who had been ambushed, were being escorted out of Abyei by UN peacekeepers. The SAF claim they acted after the SPLA had moved forces in unauthorised violating the 2005 peace agreement which had ended 22 years of war. The SPLA has subsequently denied responsibility for the attack. The violence began a day after the UN called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” that has recently increased and prior to the UN Security Council delegation which was scheduled to hold talks with the Sudanese government in the northern capital, Khartoum, over Abyei. The United States, one of the main backers of the peace deal have condemned the violence in Abyei and the Southern forces attack on a UN convoy just a few days ago.
The North and South have yet to agree over distribution of the oil revenues prior to division, with the oil situated in the south and refineries remaining in the North. With tensions and fears rising the SPLA have reported to have urged the international community to intervene quickly in order to thwart further tensions that could lead to the declaration of war, just as Sudan appeared to be on the path to recovery.
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by Jolene Plocka (University of Leeds)