News / Africa

Sudanese Nomads Threaten War if Excluded from Abyei Referendum

Southern Sudanese artists stand next to a painted sign in the southern capital of Juba urging people to register for the upcoming independence referendum, 30 Sep 2010
Southern Sudanese artists stand next to a painted sign in the southern capital of Juba urging people to register for the upcoming independence referendum, 30 Sep 2010


Michael Onyiego

Nomads from the contested Abyei region of Sudan have promised violence if denied a vote in the upcoming referendum to determine the region's allegiance in the event of southern secession.  Defining the borders of the oil-producing region has become a critical part of negotiations leading up to the south's vote.

With tensions mounting just three months before a critical referendum on secession in southern Sudan, deadlock surrounding the status of the Abyei region has presented another threat to the stability of post-referendum Sudan.

In an interview Wednesday with Reuters, the head of the nomadic Missiriya tribe, Mokhtar Babo Nimr, warned that his group would use force if not allowed to participate in a plebiscite being held alongside the southern referendum.

Reuters reports an estimated 2,000 people gathered in the West Kordofan town of Muglad to demand inclusion in the vote.  The group presented U.N. representatives with a set of demands that included a review of Abyei's borders.

Abyei continues to be a sticking point in critical negotiations between the north and south before the votes on January 9.  Analysts are increasingly worried that the deadlock could delay or prevent the critical vote and plunge the region back into war.

At the opening of the U.N. General Assembly last week, United States President Barack Obama held a separate meeting between Southern President Salva Kiir and Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha to move negotiations on Abyei forward.  According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley, the talks laid the groundwork for an agreement in the near future.

"The teams and our Sudan team will meet again next month in Addis Ababa," said Crowley.  "And we would expect that the parties should come to that meeting prepared to reach an agreement on Abyei.  Abyei is our immediate focus.  There are clear responsibilities that both North and South have.  And while we worked through some of the issues this weekend, we expect that both sides, particularly Khartoum, needs to come to the next meeting prepared to reach an agreement."

Abyei, which lies within three Sudanese states along the north-south border, has long been a point of contention between North and South.  The region experienced some of the heaviest fighting during the first and second Sudanese civil wars, and has become even more valuable since large quantities of oil were discovered in 1979.

On January 9, South Sudan is widely expected to vote for secession and form an independent nation.  The same day, residents of Abyei will choose whether to align themselves with the north or south, in the event of southern secession.

But disagreements between North and South Sudan have stalled preparations for the Abyei vote.  Part of the problem is the Missiriya tribe.

Traditionally aligned with the North, Missiriya in central Sudan claim the northern Abyei region as part of their traditional grazing area.  The group fears it will lose the right to use the land should Abyei become part of South Sudan.

The government in Khartoum has taken up the group's cause, demanding that Missiriya be allowed to vote in the upcoming plebiscite.  But that demand has sparked disagreement over who should be considered a resident of the region.  The South also has accused the north of sending members of the tribe to Abyei in advance of the vote to influence the results.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.