By Joseph Ring Lang
Chronology of events that led to the explosion
- In 1905, Dinka or Jieng NgoK of Abyei under the leadership of Paramount Chief Arop Biong decided that they should be part of Kordofan Province instead of Bahr El Ghazal Province during the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan rule. The request was granted by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan authorities that ruled Sudan from 1898 to the end of December 1955.
Abyei fighters’ participation in the Anyanya Liberation struggle (1955-1972) ended in disappointment
- During the17 years of civil war (1955 -1972) which started with Torit mutiny in 1955 by Southern Sudanese rank and file, none commissioned officers against their Northern Sudanese commissioned officers who had taken over Torit military command from the British commissioned officers: the Abyei elites of Dinka or Jieng Ngok decided to join the Anyanya Liberation Movement in order to fight for Abyei case within the umbrella of Southern Sudan three provinces; since it was not easy for them to start their own Liberation Movement in Kordofan Province. Some of those fighters from Abyei of Kordofan Province like those from the 3 (three) Southern Provinces lost their lives during those liberation years.
- Unfortunately, during the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972 between the Government of Sudan under President Jaafar Mohamed Numeri and the Anyanya Liberation Movement under Joseph Lago, the Abyei case was brushed aside by the Government of Sudan under the argument that Abyei was not part of Southern Sudan – three Provinces.
Attempts to solve Abyei case peacefully
- Within the peace era from 1972 – 1983, Bona Malwal became the Central Minister of Information in Khartoum. He convinced Numeri to allow Abyei to return to Bahr El Ghazal Province from Kordofan Province since it voluntarily joined Kordofan in 1905. Numeri saw the logic of a peaceful transfer of a community that had chosen to join another Province voluntarily, back to their original Province.
Numeri then made a decision that he would take Abyei Administration to the National Capital Khartoum – from there Abel Alier who was the 2nd Vice President of Sudan and President of the High Executive Council of semi-autonomous Government in Juba would then ask Numeri to transfer Abyei Administration back to Bahr El Ghazal Province. To implement that policy, a local Government administrator in Sudan who hails from Abyei by the name Justin Deng Aguer was proposed to be the Abyei Administrator at the Office of the President of Sudan until the transfer process was completed.
In the meantime, Numeri was to visit Abyei town in order to be the first to give the good news to the people of Abyei. On arrival with his two military helicopters, he was welcomed by the local population which was immediately followed by a political rally.
Saboteurs to the Abyei case emerged at Abyei Town
- When the political rally started a hidden bomb` exploded. Bruno Mawien Kuol Arop Biong who came all the way from Khartoum University bombarded President Numeri with unwavering words. He challenged President Numeri for interfering in Abyei affairs, instead of welcoming him. He asked Numeri how he could have dared to interfere in the affairs of the people of Abyei. During his onslaught of words, Bruno Mawien had told Numeri that the People of Abyei had lived peacefully with their neighbors Misseriya Arabs for almost ¾ (three-quarters of a century) and that there was no way an outsider like Numeri could come and intervene in the affairs of peaceful sister communities – ignoring the fact that Numeri was the President of the whole country called Sudan which included Abyei and had the power to do that. All those words were said in classical Arabic which the locals of Abyei did not understand.
- The locals of Abyei were shocked when Numeri walked straight to the place of his two helicopters that were at a little distance away. That was the end of that Chapter of Abyei under Numeri who ruled Sudan (1969 – 1985).
Business as usual
- In that connection the Abyei elites in 1984 decided to form Anyanya 2 inside in Bahr El Ghazal of Southern Sudan which those of Bruno Mawien Kuol Arop Biong had decided not to be part of it under Numeri rule. The Anyanya 2 group from Abyei wanted to own it alone. When those of Aguek Adiang Mariik and Yak Magot from Twic joined them after freely leaving Sudan army, they were shot dead by the group of Abyei fighters who were commanded by Ayuel Adur and Kuol Deng Lehng of Anyanya 2 with no provocation.
It is worth mentioning here that Aguek Adiang Mariik is the elder brother of Ambassador Ajing Adiang Mariik) and hails from Twic Community of Bahr El Ghazal was known in the Sudan Army as “Abu Khamsiin Jundi”, literally means a fighter that is equivalent to 50 soldiers in the battlefield. Maybe, the killing incident was the start of Abyei elites’ agenda of animosity toward Twic Community of Bahr El Ghazal. The Anyanya 2 group later joined SPLM/SPLA that started the second civil war (1983 – 2005).
International Intervention by the International community after 1988 famine in Bahr El Ghazal
The Second Civil War had its repercussions. It became impossible for the locals to get access to food markets which were controlled by the Government of Sudan – it resulted in famine in 1988.
After the famine of 1988, the ethnic European powers decided that enough was enough. The ethnic black Africans from Southern Sudan must be prevented from extinction due to the ethnic Arab policy of starving the local population into annihilation, which was a result of abrupt, handing over the Government of Sudan to the ethnic Arabs of Sudan by the English on 01/01/1956 to be an independent Country. The estimated data from 1988 famine was half a million (500,000.) people who died from hunger – from the remains of bones of people scattered along the railway lines tracking northwards on foot looking for food.
Subsequently, Operation Lifeline Sudan which was abbreviated OLS was assembled for both food and none food aid. When Khartoum continued to disrupt deliveries of aid to the locals, the HQRS of the delivery operations for Southern Sudan was moved from Sudan to Kenya.
The assembling of the Abyei ‘Trojan Horse’
- It was at Lokichogio – Kenya where and when Professor/ Luka Biong Deng Kuol Arob Biong started to conceive the skeleton of the ‘Trojan Horse’ of Abyei (which was later on renamed Abyei Box) under the support of the SRRA (Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) which was a humanitarian wing of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement and Army. Professor/Luka Biong Deng Kuol Arop Biong subsequently completed the design of the map of Abyei which was still part of Kordofan Province.
During the process of the preparations of the Abyei map scheme at Lokichogio, Professor/ Luka Biong Deng Kuol Arop Biong then cut parts of what is now Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, plus what is now Warrap State (of former Bahr El Ghazal Province) and part of what is now Unity State of former Upper Nile Province and added those parts to Abyei map inside Kordofan Province at the expense of Southern Sudan territories – a bizarre development which was not noticed by those who should have been concerned like the humanitarian wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SRRA).
- At that time, the people of South Sudan in general and Twic Community in particular never suspected that the ‘Trojan Horse’ of the Abyei elites was being assembled in the form of Abyei map. Hence, the Abyei map was restructured by Professor/Luka Biong Deng Kuol Arop Biong to include parts of the former Bahr El Ghazal Province and Upper Nile Province as the authentic map of Abyei inside kordofan Province. The new planned map was circulated among the UN Agencies and International NGOs. In spite of the fact that the Abyei map inside Kordofan Province had usurped parts of Bahr El Ghazal Province (Awiel and Warrap States) as well as parts of Unity State of Greater Upper Nile, nothing was done to stop the illegal cutting of parts of different Provinces of what is now known as South Sudan.
- Either knowingly or unknowingly, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement authorities decided to put a blind eye on the looming controversial issue which was visible at the horizon. Whereas the public of the above-mentioned areas never noticed anything abnormal in that regard – otherwise they would have reacted ferociously.
CPA Protocols at Naivasha Kenya
- During the conclusions of the Protocols Agreements at Naivasha, Abyei like Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile were given different protocols which were separate from the one given to Southern Sudan. The difference between Abyei Protocol with that of the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile protocols was that South Sudan Government known as GOSS during the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) era took for granted that Abyei was already part of South Sudan while ignoring the illegality of the assumption at international level (between Sudan and South Sudan Governments).
To substantiate the assertion, some of the torch bearers of Abyei later took very senior positions in the Government of South Sudan like Deng Alor Kuol Arop Biong and Professor/ Luka Biong Deng Kuol Arop Biong were given senior Government positions in the Executive Wing of the Government after Independence from Sudan. It also included Dr. Francis Mading Deng Kuol Arob Biong who was appointed as the Permanent Representative of South Sudan to the United Nations.
Earlier at Naivasha – Kenya
- It did happen that those of Deng Alor Kuol Arop Biong made sure that the Abyei Map was to be drawn inside Kordofan before the people of Abyei voted whether to remain in Kordofan or to be part of Bahr El Ghazal at the end of 6 years – interim period (2005 – 2011).
Using their influence in GOSS, they cheated their bordering communities, Twic of Warrap State and Abiem of Awiel State and Parieng of Unity State as illustrated below.
- They maximized their influence in GOSS during the CPA era to insert 3 members of Abyei elites, out of five (5) members allocated to GOSS. The ABC Commission also included five (5) members from the government of Sudan and five (5) members from International Community to make a total of fifteen (15) members in the ABC Commission. The Abyei elites in the Government purposely left out representatives from Parieng Community (where Higlig/Panthou is located) and Twic Community in the ABC Commission for reasons which will become clearer later on.
- They forced the two Governments (The government of Sudan and self-autonomous Government of South Sudan (2005 -2011) to legalize the ABC (Abyei Boundary Commission) map inside Kordofan Province using the format they had conceived that had illegally cut parts of other provinces without the knowledge of the locals.
- They also convinced GOSS authorities during the CPA era (2005 – 2011) to be their guardians as demanded by The Hague Court requirements, after having cut parts of B-ahr El Ghazal and Parts of Upper Nile Provinces and added them to Kordofan map as belonging to Abyei inside Kordofan.
- Like before the authorities in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement who were ruling Southern Sudan (known as GOSS) from 2005 to 2011 during the interim period, refused to come out clearly where their border ends between Southern Sudan and Kordofan of Northern Sudan from that time up to now. It also later complicated the buffet zone, deployment of troops of both countries because the South Sudanese authorities did not come out clearly what they considered their border with Kordofan.
In that respect during the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) era (2005-2011, the Abyei elites who were holding Executive positions in GOSS (Government of South Sudan) managed to pull the two Governments (Sudan Government and GOSS) to Hague Arbitration Court (which is the highest Court on the Planet Earth) for a ruling on Abyei map, inside Kordofan. As usual, the authorities In GOSS put a blind eye to the fact the Hague ruling will encompass forever parts of what is now South Sudan at East and South of the whole of South Sudan.
- Finally, South Sudan SPLM leadership under the Vice President of GOSS (Dr. Riek Machar Teny) with the blessing of the SPLM leadership went to Hague Court of Arbitration in 2009 accompanying Abyei elites for their case with Sudan Government with the proposed Abyei enclave map which had taken away part of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, Warrap State and Unity State.
Interestingly, before The Hague Court of Arbitration made a ruling, Panthou/Higlig was in the Sudan maps as part of Unity State and not part of Kordofan. It was by misdeed that the Abyei elites of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had removed the word Higlig/Panthou and replaced it with Higlig/Miding so as to eliminate the ownership of Parieng Community of Unity State.
The result of that dangerous action by the Abyei elites: had put the team that went to Hague Court in an awkward position during the Hague Court’s deliberations of proof of ownership of the land which was being reviewed by the Hague Court of Arbitration; had ended with Higlig/Panthou which they had renamed Higlig/Miding, being awarded to Kordofan from Unity State by the Hague Court of Arbitration because the Hague Court didn’t know that Higlig/Miding was in fact Higlig/Panthou which belongs to Unity State of greater Upper Nile.
The consoling part of The Hague’s Court Ruling
- It thus transpires that The Hague Court ruled only on West, North and East of Abyei map which had stolen part of Unity State of Panthou/Higlig to Kordofan while it was in Sudan maps as belonging to Unity State because the Abyei elites couldn’t convince the Hague Court of Arbitration that their great grandfathers had occupied that area of Panthou/Higlig in the past. Also, The Hague Court didn’t know that they were making decisions on an area that belongs to different people who are the Panrieng Dinka or Jieng community of Unity State.
The other compelling evidence was that the land under review was presented to The Hague Court of Arbitration by the Southern Sudanese themselves as a land belonging to Kordofan and not Southern Sudan that was known as GOSS during that era (2005 – 2011). In other words, the Southern Sudanese authorities, in GOSS had distanced themselves from ownership of land that was being reviewed by The Hague Court. Therefore, it was simple for Hague Court to award it to Kordofan Province of Sudan.
The aftermath of the blunder of the Abyei map taken to Hague Court
- After independence of South Sudan on 9th July 2011, the Abyei elites who were holding top positions in the Government managed to convince the President of the Republic of South Sudan to issue the Presidential Order for establishment of Abyei Administrative Area as part of South Sudan while knowing that legally, at international level, it was still part of Sudan.
What was the driving engine of the Abyei elites’ moves?
- Although, I still stand to be corrected by a written contrary convincing argument, I am of a personal opinion that the Abyei elites in the SPLM leadership who were influential in the Government of South Sudan were and are still determined to keep on confusing the South Sudanese people through their government. It is a punishment for not having done enough in transferring Abyei from Kordofan (of Sudan) to South Sudan on their terms and not on consensus terms of all the stakeholders.
How do I substantiate that?
- The designing of Abyei map which later on was known as Abyei Box had inscribed a chunk of land of parts of what is now South Sudan while knowing that it was not part of the land which was taken to Kordofan in 1905 when the Abyei people decided to join Kordofan Province voluntarily during the Anglo Egyptian Sudan rule (1898 to end of December 1955). The bulk of land inscribed in the Abyei map had the following assumptions:
- It was assumed that when they become parts of South Sudan they will automatically be the 11th State of the Republic of South Sudan due to their geographical size of land.
- Even if they didn’t succeed to become part of South Sudan, they could still tell Sudan Government, “We had brought with us a sizeable piece of land from the Republic of South Sudan (which is at Kordofan Southern border). Do please help us to keep it as a Sudanese land and grand to us the status of a state”.
- The creation of the Abyei Administrative Area inside South Sudan while it is still part of Sudan legally was calculated to enhance political tensions between the two countries Sudan and South Sudan for the benefit of Abyei elites who need continuous tension between the two countries so to keep their case alive.
- UN UNISFA (United Nation Interim Security for Abyei) didn’t come out of the blue but emerged from a calculated strategy. The Abyei officers in the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army organized an attack on Sudan Army troops that were going home after their military service at Abyei was completed. The replacement of the departed troops had already taken their positions at Abyei town.
Instead of attacking the troops that were on the way to Abyei, they instead attacked those that had completed their service at Abyei. The Sudan Government troops that were returning home didn’t make any preparations for combat which resulted into death of many soldiers. Subsequently, Sudan Government was so much annoyed that they brought in troops from further North that subsequently burned the whole of Abyei town.
The attack was calculated to annoy the Government of Sudan to the level of preventing South Sudan from becoming an independent State while leaving them behind alone in Sudan. Instead, Sudan Government decided to punish the Abyei elites with their people because they considered them part of Sudan.
Later, UN Security Council found justification to intervene on behalf of the locals of Abyei and created UN UNISFA (United Nations Interim Security for Abyei) for the protection of the Abyei locals inside Sudan which was equivalent to UN UNIMISS in South Sudan.
A dream not yet fulfilled
- The Abyei elites of Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, in their enthusiasm to become the 11th State of South Sudan after departing from Kordofan of Sudan: they skillfully navigated their path of departure from Sudan to South Sudan in such a way that in case they don’t succeed to be part of South Sudan; they can still make a roundabout turn and tell Sudanese to welcome them with the new land they had acquired at The Hague Arbitration Court. Whether their strategy could succeed or not is another different story – history will be the best judge.
The ‘Trojan Horse’ still in the making
- When Abyei Administrative Area was established after independence that was the beginning of the time when the rudimentary picture of the ‘Trojan Horse’ (renamed Abyei Box) began to be clear to some elites from Twic community of Warrap State. Yet, the majority of Twic community continued to be sympathetic with their brothers of Abyei Community, inside Sudan and also inside South Sudan – unaware of the looming danger in the offing.
Abyei Administrative Area expansion
The Abyei elites then began to extend their administration to South of Kiir/Bahr El Arab River contrary to The Hague ruling -the Hague Court of Arbitration had ruled on West, North and East of Kordofan and not South of Kordofan.
- All indicators show that The Hague Court did not make a ruling on Kordofan Southern boarder which stood as on January 1st 1956 at independence of Sudan from UK and also at 1st January 1956 at Independence of South Sudan to become an independent Country from Sudan on July 9th 2011 on the basis of Sudan Boarder as it stood on 1st January 1956.
The Agok/Aneet, contents of the Abyei elites ‘Trojan Horse’ coming out clearly
- The Abyei elites began to survey the areas that are South of Kiir/Bahr El Arab River on their own terms, under the leadership of Kuol Deim Kuol Arop Biong, that was the time when ‘hell bent loose’. What was inside the Trojan Horse of Abyei became one hundred percent (100 %) clear to the whole of Twic Community of Warrap State of former Bahr El Ghazal Province.
Spontaneously, Twic Youth of Warrap State rose up to the challenge after having gained fighting skills from Mayom County cattle raiders who were continuously attacking them had made them professional fighters. “Tiit Weng” youth of Twic Community implemented their fighting skills by attacking the Administrative Area forces at Agok/Aneet areas.
They stormed the Abyei Administrative Area forces (that is Abyei Task Force and Abyei Adichol force) from the 10th to 12th of January 2022. They managed with their Kalashnikov weapons to dismantle the heavy artillery at Agok/Aneet areas of Abyei Administrative Area. From that time the two sides are now fighting each other in a gorilla type of warfare. Only God knows when and how the fighting will stop.
Is there a way out of the ongoing conflict?
There are many possibilities
- The Abyei Administrative Area could decide voluntarily to move their administration which it has extended South of Kiir River to North of It, so as to create a leeway for a peaceful settlement of the conflict to be finalized.
- The Government of South Sudan could dissolve Abyei Administrative Area with their Abyei Box and replace it with Abyei Naivasha Protocol which will merge the Misseriya Arabs of Kordofan with the Dinka or Jieng Ngok of Abyei under one administration as stipulated by the Abyei Naivasha Protocol of 9th January 2005.
- The Government of South Sudan could call international bodies and say “we have failed as a government to solve this problem of Twic Community with Ngok community of Abyei, please come and solve it for us” – although it is very unlikely for the Government of South Sudan to take that course of action – it is a possible solution to the problem.
- Twic Community of Warrap State gives up the land to the Dinka or Jieng Ngok of Abyei which is legally still part of Kordofan of Sudan, saying “take the land with you to Kordofan of Sudan and Twic Community move to somewhere else– though it is also very unlikely for the people of Twic to give up their land yet, it is a possible solution to the ongoing war.