ABYEI TOWN, Abyei – Outside of the main hospital in Abyei town, Nyan-thok Mapat, a 68 year-old Ngok Dinka grandmother, stood in an emptied market stall with a plastic bag partly filled with odds and ends she had gathered from the refuse. Last May, Nyan-thok fled Abyei town when she heard aerial bombardments. Though her family survived the 2008 conflict in Abyei, in 2011, Nyan-thok lost her husband, who was too elderly to run. He was shot, she said.
Since May 2011, when Sudanese government forces violently took over the Abyei area in response to alleged provocation by the South Sudanese army, Abyei town has been in a state of destruction. The town is a wasteland, stripped of its civilian population and dotted with the skeletal remains of what once were market stalls, homes, schools, and office buildings. The majority of the estimated 110,000 mostly Ngok Dinka civilians displaced from Abyei by the crisis last year have not returned home as a result of the dangers previously presented by Sudanese government forces’ continued presence. The withdrawal of the last of Sudan’s forces in Abyei town on June 2, 2012 will set in motion large Ngok Dinka returns and allow for the reconstruction of the territory to finally begin.