News / Africa

Uncertainty, Fear for Future in Abyei

People from the Misseriya tribe of the Abyei oil region protest against the proposal of African Union (AU) mediator former South African president Thabko Mbeki for a referendum to decide whether the region belonged to Sudan or South Sudan, outside the United Nations (U.N.) and AU headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, November 28, 2012.
People from the Misseriya tribe of the Abyei oil region protest against the proposal of African Union (AU) mediator former South African president Thabko Mbeki for a referendum to decide whether the region belonged to Sudan or South Sudan, outside the United Nations (U.N.) and AU headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, November 28, 2012.
Hannah McNeish
— In the disputed region of Abyei that straddles the largely undefined border of Sudan and South Sudan, residents are trickling back to rebuild their lives, following a May 2011 invasion by northern troops that drove more than 100,000 people to the South.  A fragile peace remains in this semi-ghost town while the two sides struggle for control at the negotiating table, but residents fear violence could return in the coming months. 

A small roadside shelter in front of an abandoned school shows a rare sign of life in Abyei town, as tea seller Achuil Deng waits patiently for the handful of passersby whose purchases enable her to eke out a living.

She once ran a bustling restaurant behind the schoolhouse, where vines creep through the windows and crawl where the roof once was.

“That time it was a very big and good building, so many children were inside and the roof were there and the grounds were so clean, now it is nothing like that. Now everything here is destroyed,” said Deng.

x
Northern troops, tanks and bomber planes descended on Abyei in May 2011, leaving most of the area's buildings destroyed and all the metal looted.

Small dark circles are still visible where mud-and-straw huts once stood in wastelands now populated by scampering monkeys and ambling storks.

Entire villages and surrounding crop fields were razed. Stolen property included prized cattle, which represent a family’s wealth, future dowry and property.

“Now we don’t have a place to stay and our tukul was already burnt, and we are not comfortable with the issue of security. Because when you have seen the situation before and now and how quickly things can change, people are expecting all the time insecurity,” said Deng. 

A truck piled with furniture and other items drives past burning businesses and homesteads, locally known as "tukuls", in the center of Abyei, central Sudan in this handout photograph released on May 28, 2011.A truck piled with furniture and other items drives past burning businesses and homesteads, locally known as "tukuls", in the center of Abyei, central Sudan in this handout photograph released on May 28, 2011.
x
A truck piled with furniture and other items drives past burning businesses and homesteads, locally known as "tukuls", in the center of Abyei, central Sudan in this handout photograph released on May 28, 2011.
A truck piled with furniture and other items drives past burning businesses and homesteads, locally known as "tukuls", in the center of Abyei, central Sudan in this handout photograph released on May 28, 2011.
The United Nations says the 2011 conflict caused more than 120,000 people from the mainly ethnic Dinka Ngok group to flee south.

Only a fraction have returned, and until Sudan and South Sudan can agree on who this area belongs to, it will remain a tinderbox.

Abyei was supposed to have a referendum at the same time as South Sudan in January 2011. After decades of civil war with Khartoum, Southerners voted overwhelmingly to split six months later.

Former Abyei resident Longo Mangom says it was the prospect of a vote that prompted the 2011 crisis. Mangom says Sudan knew the largely Dinka population, ethnically tied to the South, would vote to split.

After years of failed negotiations, a December 5 deadline imposed by African Union mediators passed with Khartoum rejecting a proposal.

If there is no agreement soon, the AU says that Abyei will have to have a referendum in October next year - a vote that Mangom and others fear could be deadly rather than democratic.

“The cause of attack as I put it that two parties did not agree of how they can have the referendum of Abyei as they put it in the protocol," said Mangom. "Now there is other proposal from African union to have a referendum in October ’13. But my feeling is that if the two parties do not agree who is going to vote, I fear that we will face another conflict between the two parties."

Achuil Akol Miyan, acting chief of the Abyei Administration in Agok, says that Arab nomads from the Misseriya tribe have been crossing to southern pastures via Abyei for more than 250 years.

x
But now, as the cattle export trade from Sudan is rising, along with tensions over the sharing of oil revenue with South Sudan, he claims Sudan has politicized the situation. He estimates that 3 million cows have been stolen in recent years.

“The Islamist government of Omar al Bashir is interested in the Dinka Ngok land," said Miyan. "They don’t want this land to go to the South with the oil. And they are now telling Misseriya to take the land, saying that they will end up with the land for grazing and the government will take the oil for Sudan.”

Sudan's foreign minister has already warned that if the AU passes the Abyei decision on to the U.N. Security Council, there will be violence.

Miyan says that a Misseriya chief has also gone on state TV to broadcast threats of more violence if there is a referendum.

He is more worried about fighting between communities in the next few months, when the Misseriya typically cross.  A lack of rainfall this year has led to many watering points drying up, and there are fears that thre may not be enough for even the remaining Dinka Ngok cattle.

Restaurant owner Nyan Agwok Achol says she sees only a very few customers a day from the U.N. peacekeeping force for Abyei, which is stationed nearby.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen later on and so we are just in limbo - we don’t know whether it will be secure of if there will be fighting,” said Achol.

While they wait for an identity and a country, the few residents for now are trying to rebuild their existence, but with the ever present knowledge that soon they couldonce more be running for their lives.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid