As we noted on Wednesday, a legal decision on the contested boundaries of Abyei—an oil-rich and contested region along the disputed North-South border within Sudan—is expected from the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Abyei Tribunal next week.
An article by AFP reporter Guillaume Levallee, writing from Abyei, highlights the tensions on the ground in Abyei in the run-up to next week’s ruling. Abyei’s chief administrator Arop Mayok told AFP:
People are concerned, people are afraid. They think that if the verdict is in favour of one of the parties, there will be problems, that the losing side may react negatively…
Abyei has long been a weak link in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Resolution to the area’s political crisis is essential to establishing a lasting peace between the North and South. Defining Abyei’s borders once and for all, through an internationally-mediated process agreed to by both of the Sudanese parties, is a chance to break an enduring political impasse that has impeded implementation of the CPA. If both the NCP and the SPLM view the ruling as an opportunity to move forward and deliver some of the “peace dividends” promised to Abyei’s residents by the CPA, then implementation of other key outstanding provisions could progress with a much greater chance of success.
However, the ruling will not instantly solve the tense dispute over Abyei that has plagued implementation of the CPA’s Abyei Protocol for the past four years. Abyei will continue to be a flashpoint in Sudan. Sustained attention by the Sudanese parties and the international community is the only way to ensure a peaceful way forward for Abyei – an essential priority in preventing the CPA’s collapse.