May 20, 2008

Fighting in Abyei

This is one of the most worrying stories out of Africa. There has been huge fighting in Abyei, the city between the south and north Sudan. Though there were serious disagreements between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), this is the first time that it translated into an all out war.

Abyei was one of the difficult issues in the peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and it hasn't been solved yet . The city is home to the Dinka tribes from the south and Messiria tribes from the north. The Dinka are cattle herders and they spend the entire year in Abyei while the Messiria are nomadic and they spend seven months in Abyei every year and the rest of the year in the north. The two tribes have been in Abyei for hundreds of years.

But when oil fields were discovered in Abyei both the north and the south wanted Abyei to be part of their region. Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been returning thousands of southern refugees in Kenya (and elsewhere) to Abyei in preparation for the referendum in the south schedule for 2009.

Aljazeera has done some brilliant reports few months ago explaining the complexity of the Abyei issue, it's a great starting point to understand the reasons for the current fighting.

The implications of this recent fighting are serious, this might take Sudan back to the brink of a civil war between the South and the Sudanese government again. And this is happening at a time when the Darfur issue is far from resolved.

So far thousands of people are reported to have fled the fighting, and it seems the fighting will continue at least for few more days. I'll be following this story.

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