What You Need to Know:
52 civilians, including a UN peacekeeper were killed in the Abyei administrative area on Saturday after armed youth from the Twic Dinka tribe attacked Ngok Dinka villagers. 64 remain wounded.
Abyei straddles the border between Sudan and South Sudan and was accorded special administrative status through the 2004 Abyei Protocol.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Abyei Information Minister, Bulis Koch, claimed the attack likely stemmed from an ongoing dispute between the Twic Dinka, from the neighboring state of Warrup, and Abyei’s Ngok Dinka over a piece of land in the Aneet border area.
The Abyei administrative area is immensely oil-rich, housing an estimated six billion barrels of oil reserves. Thus, the area is hotly contested by Sudan and South Sudan.
After the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War, and on the same day as the 2011 South Sudanese Independence referendum, a referendum was to be held in Abyei to decide the region’s final status.
South Sudan became independent but Abyei’s referendum never materialized.
The ousting of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, in a joint move by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), resulted in a power struggle between the RSF’s Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and the SAF’s Abdel Fattah Burhan.
A series of attempts to transition to civilian rule followed, with each attempt being delayed by both Dagalo and Burhan.
In December 2020, following pressure from the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a deal was signed between the two de-facto leaders on the implementation of a transitional government in April of 2023.
As a part of the deal, the RSF was to be integrated into the SAF over a two year period. However, Dagalo sought to integrate his forces into the SAF over a ten year period.
Sudan’s current conflict is a result of this disagreement between Dagalo and Burhan, and has since resulted in the displacement of nearly 8 million Sudanese civilians. Furthermore, the United Nations claims around 12,000 people have been killed since violence broke out in April 2023.
So, What Now?:
Attempts by the Abyei administration to hold a referendum to decide the fate of the region have been hampered by Sudan’s civil conflict. And the region continues to be a flashpoint for conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.