A Flare-Up in Abyei

Abyei is a region on the border between North and Sudan Sudan. Abyei was supposed to hold a referendum in January – in tandem with the referendum on Southern Sudanese secession – to determine whether it would stay with the North or secede with the South. Abyei’s referendum was postponed indefinitely, in large part because of ongoing tensions between Ngok Dinka farmers (who mainly want secession) and Misseriyya Arab pastoralists (who mainly want unity). As South Sudan looks to its future as an independent country, Abyei continues to witness violence and antagonism between its two dominant political blocs:

An angry mob killed three traders in Sudan’s flashpoint town of Abyei, officials said, underlining growing tensions in the area claimed by both the country’s north and the south, which is about to secede.

The crowd gathered after a soldier tried to walk into Abyei’s main market with a gun on Saturday, and fired into the air after police turned him away, the region’s chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol told Reuters.

Young people from the area’s Dinka Ngok tribe, linked to the south, turned on northern traders, he added. Two traders were beaten and one shot, Kuol said.


More than 300 civilians, many of them traders from the Misseriya, or north Sudan’s Darfur region, took shelter in a United Nations compound in Abyei town over the weekend…[M]ost had left the compound by Monday and set up their stalls again in the market.

The tensions caused by this incident seem to have dissipated quickly, but against the backdrop of political uncertainty and a war of words across the ethnic divide, it is worrying to see hints of violence in this troubled area. Even one individual’s actions can activate broader fears and enmities among the populace.

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