By Joe Odaby
South Sudan News
Juba, South Sudan — November 14, 2013 (SSN) … The Ngok Dinka people of the Abyei, a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan, held their own informal referendum as a desperate cry to the international community to save a people under threat of genocide.
The organizers of the referendum announced on October 31, 2013, that virtually all Ngok Dinka voted to join South Sudan. The Dinka tribe played a key role in South Sudan’s generation-long liberation war: one of the opening clashes in South Sudan’s liberation war was the 1965 massacre of 72 Dinka Ngok by Misseriya tribesmen in the Abyei town of Babanusa.
The semi-nomadic Arab Misseriya tribe boycotted the referendum and promised not to recognize it. The home grounds of the Misseriya tribe are in the deserts of central Sudan and the tribe traditionally move down to the Abyei area, as well as other areas along the Sudan-South Sudan border in quest for grazing for their cattle as well as black slaves for the urban markets in northern Sudan.
Khartoum has announced that it would not recognize the unilateral referendum.
As the Fashoda Institute think-tank points in its analysis, Sudan is determined to hold onto Abyei in order to secure the vast oil reserves underneath: “all the more so as the economic collapse of Sudan is evolving into major popular riots which threaten the very existence of the Khartoum Government”.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir invited President Bashir to Juba on October 22, 2013, for an emergency summit on the future of Abyei. Following the summit, senior Sudanese officials reiterated Khartoum’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Abyei crisis in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA of 2005 as subsequently supplemented by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel.
However, “developments on the ground contradict Khartoum’s assertion of a commitment to a legal and peaceful resolution of the crisis over Abyei”, as the Fashoda’s report has pointed out this week. In early October 2013, the Sudanese Army and Air Force have intensified the build-up of forces in the south of Sudan: mainly Kordofan and Blue Nile States. The Army deployed heavy battalions and regiments equipped with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery. Smaller units — mainly company-level — deployed all the way to the border with South Sudan.
The Air Force deployed to the El-Obeid area strike aircraft — Su-24s and A-5Qs — as well as Mi-24/Mi-35 & Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters. All the forces and weapons detected are optimized for offensive operations.
Fashoda’s experts agree that “all evidence points to Khartoum’s intent to increase military pressure on Juba in order to force Juba to compromise over Abyei. But a lot of things can go wrong with Sudanese patrols aggressively probing and shooting along the border”.
“All of these activities can be considered harbingers for the possibility of Bashir’s Khartoum electing to provoke a major crisis over Abyei as a way of both avoiding tackling the Abyei crisis while mobilizing Sudan’s own restive population — particularly the Islamists — into supporting and joining a jihad against South Sudan rather than riot against the Bashir Government”, writes the Fashoda Institute.
“Several opposition leaders — including former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and Hassan al-Turabi — promised to endorse and support any armed undertakings aimed to not only secure Abyei but also “reunite Sudan” (that is, occupy South Sudan). This is a temptation the besieged Bashir cannot ignore. Hence the growing Sudanese bellicosity along the border. The distance between provocations and an unintended war is very small and perilously vague.”