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Looking beyond Darfur

The Sudanese Civil War ended in 2005. However the province of Abyei has often been at the centre of intense fighting....

Written by The Indian Express |
July 25, 2009 3:46:39 am

The Sudanese Civil War ended in 2005. However the province of Abyei has often been at the centre of intense fighting. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has reached a decision upon its status and analysts fear a resumption in fighting. Alia Allana explains:

•n What is the dispute in Abyei?

The dispute centres over the rich oil fields in the central province of Sudan. Both the Muslim North and Christian South claim rights over the territory. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to the civil war did not finalise conditions over Abyei. The matter was thus handed over to the PCA in The Hague.

•n Who claims what?

The North claims that Abyei town itself,and the land south of it,is within the territorial boundary of the government in Khartoum. However,the South claims that majority of the land including the oil fields and grazing land are a part of its territory. The Court has granted the North control over the Heglig oilfields and the Nile oil pipeline,angering the South.

n Some in the South have called for the resignation of the Southern Sudan government. Is this likely?

The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has attempted to calm the people of the South through focusing on the grey areas of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Technically,the oilfields do not belong to Abyei anyway. The Heglig oilfield belongs to the Unity State and will fall within the jurisdiction of the South when a decision is reached following 2011’s referendum.

•n What does the common man lose?

Abyei is more than a mere oil dispute. Granted the country profits from annual oil revenues of $500 million,the nomadic tribes of Dinka and Misseriya rely upon the land for their livelihood. The catch is that the Misseriya are technically of Northern Sudan and thus are not defined as residents of Abyei. Hostility from the Dinka’s will deny the Misseriya the right to graze cattle and move across the territory.

•n There is fear of renewed fighting. What has been the past history?

Despite the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the case at The Hague,clashes in 2008 resulted in 100,000 displaced people. There have been reports of Southern troops amassing on the border,and analysts fear that this decision may tip the balance. The matter is further complicated due to the indictment of Khartoum’s dictator Omar Al-Bashir. His government in the past has tried to re-arrange the North-South border and the policy still operates.

•n What next?

The decision on Abyei will take place in a referendum to be held in 2011. This decision will allow the people to decide whether they want to be a part of the North or the South. Many believe Abyei will want to join with the South. There will be another referendum at the same time: this one decides the fate of Sudan as the South decides on secession.

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