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In Sudan, stability or civil war?

The answer can be found in the dusty village of Abyei.

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While the world seems focused on the International Criminal Court's request to arrest Sudan's president Omar al Bashir for genocide, a single dusty town in central Sudan may hold the key to the country's future stability.

At first glance, Abyei seems much like any other settlement in Africa's largest country. Bleating goats are routinely chased off its runway so that fixed-wing airplanes can land. A few charred huts and dilapidated market stalls distinguish it from an otherwise barren landscape.

But it is what is below the ground that matters. Nestled in central Sudan, Abyei sits atop more than a quarter of the country's estimated 6.4 billion barrels of oil. It is the cornerstone of Sudan's oil sector.

Not surprisingly, the determination of the area's "boundary" was never satisfactorily resolved during peace negotiations that ended decades of civil war in 2005.

Despite the peace agreement between the North and South, bloody clashes erupted over the control of Abyei and oil-rich land nearby. Consequently, it's more ghost village than booming oil town now.

In the shadow of escalating violence in Darfur and Chad, Abyei caught the international community by surprise. During heavy fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in May, up to 60,000 locals were forced to flee.


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