Peace conferences vital but they will not resolve Abyei disputes

Peace conferences vital but they will not resolve Abyei disputes
UN peacekeepers on patrol in Abyei (File Photo)

The anticipated peace conference between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya Arabs in Kampala, Uganda, is far from resolving the whole dispute in Abyei.

According to the media reports, the conference is organised by the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) which is expected to begin on May 16 to19, 2022.

While the conference may reduce the tension in the area, it may not address the prolonged issues in the area.

However, the dialogue will commence exactly on the same date when the then Sudan People‚Äôs Liberation Army (SPLA) declared war against the Khartoum oppressive regime on May 16, 1983. But the agreement that ended the same conflict failed to liberate Abyei from its suffering. It is over 30 years and Abyei is still bleeding from the violent attacks.  

Since the beginning of this year, there has been serious inter-communal conflict in Abyei, mainly carried out by the Misseriya Arabs. Last week, more than 40 people were reported killed in Abyei by the Misseriya armed men.   In the past months, people in Abyei have also suffered similar attacks from the neighbouring community on the South Sudan side. Several people were reported killed and houses and property were destroyed.

The anticipated conference between Dinka Ngok and Misseriyia Arabs should not be limited to the local communities. The conflict in Abyei is a political issue that needs the involvement of the political leaders, not just the youth, women, and chiefs.

Last week, the US government and UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations raised concerns over the silence from both leaders of Sudan and South Sudan and called on the two countries to resolve the issue of the status of the disputed Abyei for peace to prevail in the area. This means that the conflict between Dinka Ngok and the Misseriyia is deep-rooted in the control of the territory of the Abyei area.

Instead of organising an inter-communal dialogue between the Dinka Ngok and Misseriyia, the UNISFA should have given a strong recommendation to the United Nations Security Council to revisit the Abyei protocol in Chapter IV of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which remains pending now.

Conducting a referendum in Abyei is the only and lasting solution to the persistent conflict in the area. UNISFA may organise several dialogue sessions but this is far from the solution. It will not address the driving force behind the conflict in Abyei.

These people should be allowed to decide for their future through the referendum if the UNSC is serious about bringing sustainable peace in Abyei between the two communities, they should be allowed to decide their future through the referendum. Otherwise, there will always be bloodshed in the area if no serious step is taken. The anticipated inter-communal peace conference in Kampala should come up with strong resolutions, and one of them should be the need to conduct a referendum in Abyei.

There is no need to continue losing lives while all the legal options for the resolution of Abyei disputes are still hanging in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).