Members of the Sudanese diaspora turned out in front of the White House last Friday for a rally to raise awareness about the continued violence in the disputed region. The passionate group, called together by Abyei Solidarity and the Abyei Association in the United States, hoped to encourage the U.S. government to utilize its resources to ensure peace and to support the full implementation of the Abyei Protocol before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement expires in July.
Ashai Arop Bagat, one of the founders of Abyei Solidarity, said the organization aims to "mobilize people and get people to speak out about the continuing violence in Abyei." As someone from Abyei, Ashai's personal hope is to "make sure people get peace in Abyei." Many attendees of the rally had similar personal connections to Abyei, which was evident in the energy in which each person spoke about the recent violence.
Abyei, a region on the border between North and South Sudan, is valued for its oil and fertile pastureland and was scheduled to hold its own referendum in early January 2011 to decide whether it would be part of the North or South. Because of disputes and procedural inconsistencies, Abyei's referendum has yet to occur. Intense fighting has been sweeping through Abyei since January, killing hundreds and displacing more than 20,000 residents.
On March 16, the United Nations reacted to the violence in Abyei by releasing a statement about the responsibility of both North and South Sudan to protect the residents of Abyei.
Speakers at the rally appealed to the United States to use its influence to press Sudanese leaders to resolve the political impasse and quell the violence perpetuated by various armed groups. As Sudanese-American Bol Bulabek remarked in his speech, “We are asking President Obama to give us our hope back.”