Abyei, always Abyei. That’s the Sudan-South Sudan dispute no African Union diplomat can untangle. The final determination of which side controls Abyei province and its oil is now the central issue dividing the Sudans. The Dinka Ngok tribe are the disputed area’s traditional inhabitants, and they look south to their ethnic and religious kin. If there were a plebiscite based on who lives in the region year-round, Abyei would end up as part of the south. Sudan (Khartoum government), however, insists that the Arabized Misseriya tribe (which favors the north, of course) should get a vote. The semi-nomadic Misseriya would migrate into and through Abyei in November and December, seeking water for their animals. For years the Dinka permitted the migration. However, the fighting that erupted in 1965 (First Sudan Civil War, 1965-1972), embittered the tribes. During the subsequent civil war (Second Sudan Civil War, 1983-2005), many Abyei Dinka fled their homes. Some of the homes were abandoned, others were occupied by Misseriya. When Dinka Ngok began returning after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, more disputes flared over property rights. The CPA incorporated two prior accords into the peace agreement, the Machakos Protocol (2002) and the Abyei Protocol (2004). The CPA stipulated that only residents (ie, Dinka Ngok) would get to vote in the plebiscite that would determine if Abyei would remain part of Sudan or become part of South Sudan. Sudan, however, points to a decision by the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) that the Misseriya have secondary rights in the region and has suggested dividing the region. Abyei town, which is the most important town in the region, is on the north bank of the Kiir River, which is the main water source. Southerners regard suggestions that the region be divided, with the land north of the Kiir going to the north and that land south of the Kiir going to South Sudan, as a non-starter. Several Dinka Ngok chiefs have urged the UN Security Council to take “firm” action against the government of Sudan and force Khartoum to live up to the 2005 CPA.
February 15, 2013: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked Libya and Chad to arrest indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visits their countries. The ICC then wants him extradited to face trial for war crimes committed in Darfur.
February 14, 2013: Sudan claimed that there will not be a new round of fighting between it and South Sudan. One gets the impression that despite reports of new troop deployments by Sudan and South Sudan’s army, neither side will go to war. Sudan says that Sudan’s troop movements along the border involved anti-smuggling operations. The Sudanese forces were trying to stop arms shipments from the south which were intended for rebels in Sudan.
February 13, 2013: In South Sudan’s Unity state, security forces arrested two cattle raiders whom they believe murdered a woman and two children last week. The raiders also stole 57 cows, although 52 have been recovered.
February 12, 2013: South Sudan said that Sudan is reinforcing its military units along the disputed Sudan-South Sudan border. South Sudanese forces have been put on alert in case Sudanese forces attack. The South Sudanese government, however, insisted that its forces were meeting all requirements of the September 2012 peace agreement.
February 11, 2013: A faction of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government. Qatar sponsored the peace talks.
February 8, 2013: A cattle raid in South Sudan’s Jonglei state left 103 dead, 14 killed were soldiers in the SPLA. There was evidence that the attackers were members of a rebel militia led by former South Sudanese military officer David Yau Yau.
February 7, 2013: Tensions are once again increasing between Sudan and South Sudan. Several African diplomats urged the two countries to quickly resolve their border disputes. African Union mediators list five unresolved border issues. First and foremost is Abyei. The other are the following areas: Dabat Al- Fakhar, Jabel Al-Miqainis, Samha, and Kafiya Kanji.
February 5, 2013: The Sudanese Army accused the South Sudanese Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) of failing to comply with the September 2012 peace agreement and completely withdraw its soldiers from the five disputed border regions. The two Sudans have agreed to create a buffer zone and resolve their border disputes through negotiation. The Sudanese government also accused South Sudan of failing to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2046. The Sudanese government claimed that the UNISFA peacekeeping force in Abyei has confirmed that the Sudanese Army has met its withdrawal commitment in Abye.
February 3, 2013: South Sudan accused Sudan of assaulting a border position in Upper Nile state. One SPLA soldier was killed in the attack and four were wounded. Sudan denied that the attack took place. However, South Sudan reiterated its claim. The alleged assault took place in the Babanusa area (north of Malakal, capital of Upper Nile state) and over 20 kilometers south of the Sudan-South Sudan border. Sudanese Army soldiers attacked the position and the SPLA defeated the initial attack while suffering no casualties. Two Sudanese helicopter gunships then attacked the position. The soldier who was killed died in the gunship attack.
January 28, 2013: The UN reported that SPLA soldiers engaged tribal rebels in the town of Pibor (Jonglei state). The firefight, which occurred in Pbor’s central market place, forced some 2,000 civilians in the area to flee. The civilians took refuge at a UN peacekeeping base inside Pibor. Clashes between South Sudan’s army and rebels forced about 2,000 civilians to flee to a United Nations peacekeeping base in the town of Pibor, a UN spokesman said.
January 26, 2013: The US government appealed to the government of Sudan to agree to hold unconditional negotiations with rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The primary rebel organization in both states is the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). In mid-January the SPLM-N sent a diplomatic mission to the US to meet with congressional and State Department leaders.