FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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ABYEI TOWN, Abyei — The withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, from Abyei town in early June has paved the way for potential large-scale returns of the estimated 110,000 mostly Ngok Dinka population who were displaced from the disputed, oil-producing region of Abyei in the May 2011 Sudan government incursion.
Humanitarian aid workers report that approximately 1,250 people have returned to Abyei town, and project that some 30,000 Ngok Dinka will return over the next few months. This anticipated influx of civilians, according to a new Enough Project report, underscores the urgency for leaders in Sudan and South Sudan to reach a final solution on the status of Abyei and for humanitarian assistance to be in place.
“The same political tensions that have already resulted in two large-scale attacks on the civilian population in Abyei continue to exist, and will continue to threaten the safety and security of the now returning civilians until a decision on Abyei's final status is reached," said Amanda Hsiao, the report’s author and Enough Project field researcher. The report, "Field Dispatch: Abyei in Flux," is based on field research conducted in Abyei earlier this month, and includes an accompanying photo slideshow.
The Ethiopian U.N. peacekeeping force that was deployed to defuse the tensions surrounding the May crisis has since stabilized the Abyei area, despite the traditionally volatile migration season and larger Sudan-South Sudan tensions along the border, according to the report. Reconciliation of the deeply strained relations between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities at the grassroots will also be critical for sustaining peace in Abyei going forward.
International pressure in the form of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2046 and the African Union roadmap has ignited some momentum in negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, but the two countries remain at an impasse over a number of key issues, including over Abyei. An estimated 100 Sudanese oil police remain within the Abyei area.
"The long overdue withdrawal of Sudan government forces from Abyei town will permit civilians finally to return home and the reconstruction of the devastated area to begin," Hsiao said. "Until a decision is reached between Juba and Khartoum, the international community should help establish the necessary political, security, and humanitarian arrangements to ensure stability is maintained and humanitarian needs of the population are met in the interim."
During the May 2011 incursion, Sudan government forces engaged in indiscriminate bombardment and widespread razing and looting of civilian properties, documented by the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project.
Read the full report: “Field Dispatch: Abyei in Flux”
View a slideshow of images from Abyei. Photos are available for media use. Please credit Amanda Hsiao/Enough Project.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a“3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.