Sudan: Everyone Says They Will Talk And Not Fight

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July 31, 2009: The recent court decision setting Sudan's internal "oil border" is not going down well with nomadic tribes, most of whom are Sudanese Arab Moslem. For example, the Misseriya tribe, whose members have fought with SPLA troops in the border region, maintain that the Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration decision separates them from traditional pasture land. In the days following the court's decision, several thousand Misseriya showed up for a protect in the town of el-Muglad. The protests were directed as much against the northern government (national government) as well as the decision. The Misseriya are regarded as allies of the national government, but the protestors said the government had sold them out. The Misseriya are not "pure nomads." Many live in villages and towns but they keep cattle herds and move the herds to pastures in central and south Sudan. This puts them in conflict with farming communities ("sand versus sown"). The Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya have been at odds in the sensitive Abyei oil area, especially as Ngok Dinka refugees began returning to the region after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). A Misseriya spokesman said that his tribe was interested in direct discussions with the Ngok Dinka. Direct tribe to tribe discussions have produced on-the-ground deals in the past. For example, south Sudanese Nuer and Dinka tribes in 2001 and 2002 pursued "direct negotiations" to solve tribal disputes. The SPLA let mediators (many from Anglican and Catholic churches) help organize the tribal negotiations. The Misseriya clearly think the national government is more interested in oil deals than in pasture rights, and of course it is.

July 23, 2009: The government believes that the border demarcation ruling regarding the Abyei oil district demonstrated both northern and southern Sudan were committed to the 2005 CPA peace process. The government is supposed to run a referendum for residents in the region in January 2011. The vote will determine if the area becomes part of north or south Sudan.

July 22, 2009: The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, issued a decision that demarcates the north-south borders in the contested Abyei oil region. Abyei lies between the predominantly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. The national government and the Government of South Sudan (GOSS, run by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement) both agreed to abide by the court decision. This is good news, since fighting has broken out in the area on several occasions and both the national government and GOSS think fighting around Abyei could spark a new civil war. The ruling is highly technical, but both governments said the Abyei's east border was shifted to the west, which puts the Heglig oil field in north Sudanese territory. A GOSS spokesman said their representatives thought the ruling was fair and would help stabilize the situation around Abyei. The GOSS spokesman acknowledged that Ngok Dinka had lost some land but said the deal was acceptable and binding.

July 19, 2009: A spokesman for UNMIS (UN MIssion in Sudan, the south Sudan peacekeeping force) claimed that south Sudanese troops (in the SPLA) had illegally moved into part of Abeyi. UNMIS is concerned that troop movements prior to an impending court decision could lead to violence in the region.

A medical NGO operating in West Darfur state said gunmen raided its compound in the town of Geneina. A staff member was wounded in the attack. The compound provides services for approximately 200,000 displaced people. The attackers robbed a headquarters building then fled. This is an example of the "gray area" that exists in chaotic regions like Darfur. The difference between guerrilla attacks and bandit attacks is often hard to detect.

July 18, 2009: The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) freed 60 prisoners. Most of the prisoners were national government soldiers and policemen. The JEM said the prisoner release was a political gesture intended to forward peace negotiations. The JEM wants the national government to release JEM prisoners it holds, some of whom are condemned to death for participating in the "big raid" on Omdurman in 2008.

July 17, 2009: Northern and southern officials told a US envoy that they are hopeful about the impending court decision regarding the Abyei border, but are making plans to prevent any conflicts should people in the area react negatively to the ruling.

July 14, 2009: And the helicopter shortage continues. UNAMID (UN-AU hyrbid peacekeeping mission in Darfur) says it is still short 24 helicopters. Ehtiopia will deploy five in September or October, but UNAMID still lacks helicopter recon and heli-lift capability that is vital to its mission.

 

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