Sudan: Tensions Escalate over Abyei

 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.

Further information can be found from the following sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13491445
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/05/22/uk-sudan-abyei-north-idUKTRE74L14S20110522
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/05/201152121531778931.html

by Jolene Plocka (University of Leeds)

About perspectivesonafrica

Research and news about Africa
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One Response to Sudan: Tensions Escalate over Abyei

  1. Jolene Plocka says:

    Follow up on South Sudan

    Following the recent escalation of tensions in Sudan the United Nations have led investigations into the clashes in order to calm the uncertainty during the lead up to South Sudan’s independence in July. Officials have estimated that the recent violence led to 100 people killed. Despite the casualties it appears the threat of renewed war since the disturbances in Abeyi in previous weeks seems to have been somewhat quelled for the time being.

    However, the number of displaced persons affected by the tensions still remains considerable. A United Nations humanitarian official in the south, Lise Grande has stipulated that prominent problems still exist with “Ninety-six thousand standing as the number of displaced we can account for, but with many fleeing into the bush the number may be even higher.” The UN has gone further with estimates calculating the numbers coming voluntarily from the North and other countries to exceed 300,000.

    Concerns that the south risks becoming a failed state following succession exist if the south is unable to bring its humanitarian situation and internal security under control. With tribes turning on each other, fighting over cattle with a growing youth population feeling the pressure for cows to provide dowries and raids becoming more frequent.

    The exact position of the border has added to those concerns, the demarcation of a remaining 20 per cent of the 2,100 km border between the North and South and the distribution of oil revenues continue to have an effect on disputes over the Abeyi region and add to the volatility of the region.

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