Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Abyei and its surrounding areas as a result of the Sudanese army’s seizure and occupation of the disputed border region. Since the incursion, widespread looting and destruction of Abyei town under the army’s watch has been documented and humanitarian agencies continue to face challenges accessing the newly displaced communities. The town of Agok, which sits just south of Abyei, has been vacated by many residents who fled fearing that insecurity would spread further south. At the same time, the town has become haven for over 27,000 displaced, according to the U.N. refugee agency, and a defensive base for southern troops. Enough Project’s multimedia journalist Tim Freccia traveled to Agok and captured these photos and video.
Many of those displaced have traveled for days with all of their possessions to escape the insecurity in Abyei. Food, medicine, even basic shelter is scarce. Many people have been sleeping in makeshift tarp shelters or under trees on the muddy ground.
The southern army, or the SPLA, has been moving to the Agok frontline to defend what many on the ground believed to be a possible northern incursion further into southern territory. The attack never materialized and now the situation has calmed. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has stated that the South has no intention of retaliation.
But the border region that has been a flashpoint for years remains tense. Northern and southern leaders reached a deal on Monday to establish a demilitarized zone along the length of the North-South border, but whether this arrangement will be implemented and diffuse the situation in Abyei remains to be seen.
With South Sudan due to declare independence in just over a month, the festering conflict in Abyei is threatening to spoil the festivities.