Business, Economics and Jobs

Abyei back from the brink, for now


Armed men wandering the streets of Abyei are a common sight as tensions have risen in the disputed region ahead of southern Sudan's independence in July.


Ashraf Shazly

Abyei is widely, and rightly, considered the likely flashpoint between northern and southern Sudan as the South prepares for its long-awaited independence in July.

Tensions have been rising steadily in recent weeks and months, and the Satellite Sentinel project, set up by Hollywood actor George Clooney, has catalogued the build-up of military forces in the disputed region.

But late on Sunday the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) announced an agreement that seems to have pulled Abyei back from the brink, at least for a while.

Senior generals from both the southern Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) signed an agreement to pull back unauthorized forces from Abyei.

“There was good will on both sides and we hope to follow up on this spirit, to see that it is actualized because Abyei is very important in the peace process,” said UNMIS commander Major General Moses Bisong Obi who brought the meeting together.

The pull-out is supposed to start today. So there is a glimmer of hope that conflict might be avoided in Abyei after all.

But just when things are looking up in Abyei, there are reports of fighting elsewhere in the south.

A series of militias have emerged — or in many cases re-emerged — to take up arms against the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) government since January’s peaceful referendum vote and violent instability seems to be spreading.

In the latest attacks at least 82 people, 34 of them civilians, were killed during a cattle raid by rebels in Warrap state.