The thousands of Sudanese civilians who fled Abyei last month are wary about returning because they doubt the staying power of the most recent agreement to bring peace.
In the wake of the impotent response from UN peacekeepers to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) bombing and storming of Abyei last month, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing, optimism in reaction to the latest Abyei agreement was measured. While international leaders and diplomats tried to sound upbeat, congratulating the northern and southern governments for “taking this step toward peace,” people from the displaced communities voiced heavy skepticism about this new paper agreement.
Most notably, the deal signed in Addis Ababa calls for the deployment of an interim security force – Sudan’s third peacekeeping mission – and the withdrawal of all other armed forces from the area. It explicitly does not address the deeply rooted issues that have prompted some to call the disputed territory the Kashmir or West Bank of Sudan. The agreement should – if it is implemented to the letter – essentially return Abyei to the untenable deadlock pre-SAF invasion. An agreement signed three years ago after the attack by SAF forces and government-backed militias on Abyei town in 2008 served a similar purpose, deflecting final resolution to a later date and a different body. But this time, no timeline has been laid out for a political resolution and displaced Ngok Dinka residents may be more wary to return.