Note: This op-ed originally appeared in African Arguments and was written by John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, and Brian Adeba, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project.
In the excitement around Sudan’s evolving political order and the concerns around South Sudan’s challenges, less attention has been paid to some long-standing contentious issues that have the potential to create new havoc. One of those issues is the disputed area between Sudan and South Sudan known as Abyei. The opportunity presented by the establishment of a new civilian government in Sudan following the fall of Omar al-Bashir offers fresh hope that Abyei can be freshly addressed.
Lying on the border between the two countries, Abyei has been a disputed area since South Sudan become independent in 2011. In the run-up to the independence referendum, Khartoum and Juba argued fiercely over whether the territory ought to belong to the north or south. The outcome was initially seen as particularly significant due to the presence of large oil reserves in the region, though after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that most oil fields fell outside Abyei, the focus shifted to the area’s economic and sociopolitical importance…
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