The disputed border area of Abyei, a region contested between Sudan and South Sudan, has recently been gripped by a surge in violence, leading to the tragic loss of at least 75 lives over the past two weeks. The United Nations representative in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, reported these casualties, stressing the urgent need for government intervention to investigate the attacks and de-escalate tensions.
A Conflict Fuelled by Resource Claims and Accusations
This conflict primarily involves clashes between the Ngok and Twic communities, with the primary bone of contention being access to resources. Tensions escalated earlier in the week when the South Sudan army was implicated in orchestrating attacks with armed youth, an allegation the military has staunchly denied.
A History of Unresolved Disputes
The Abyei region, known for its oil reserves, has been claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan since South Sudan gained independence in 2011. An administrative border dispute has locked rival groups in an ongoing struggle, with a referendum intended to resolve Abyei's status never being held.
The Role of International Bodies and the Need for Peace
In response to this crisis, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Abyei (Unisfa mission) was established to monitor the border, facilitate humanitarian aid, and secure the region's oil infrastructure. The embassies of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States have also issued a statement urging the South Sudanese government to withdraw its troops from Abyei to prevent further violence. The hope is that this international pressure, coupled with local efforts, can pave the way towards a peaceful resolution for Abyei.