34 die in Abyei-South Sudan ‘land dispute’

At least 34 people have died, 34 others injured, and about 4,000 displaced in attacks in the disputed Abyei* border region between Sudan and South Sudan last week. A ‘cautious calm’ has reportedly returned to the area, however residents remain vigilant amid rumours of renewed violence.

Deng Bul, security adviser for the Abyei region, told Radio Dabanga yesterday that the situation in Abyei “is now back to normal, except for rumours of a possible attack”.

Bul said that a group of young people from Tog in South Sudan’s Warrap state launched an attack on Abyei from the south and west direction, killing 34 people, including women, children, and the elderly. Bul says that the attack also led to the injury of 34 others and the displacement of about 4,000 people into Abyei, where some of the wounded are still receiving treatment in Abyei hospital.

He said that the attack on the village of Qout happened at night, so that a number of the victims burned to death in their homes, in which a number of innocent people were burned inside homes. He says that the November 19 attack was preceded by another attack on November 13, which also resulted in a number of casualties on both sides.

On the causes of the conflict, Bul attributed the reasons to a dispute over border land between Abyei and Tog governorate in Warrap state, where the attacking group claims to be dependent on land south of the Kiir River.

In a statement to Radio Dabanga, Bul accused the South Sudan Defence Forces deployed on the road leading from Abyei of supporting the attacking youths by transporting them by vehicles and supporting them with ammunition at the disposal of the force commander.

According to Bul, they have informed the General Command in Abyei sided to contain the situation and resolve the problem peacefully through dialogue.

The South Sudan Defence Forces have been approached for comment.

In October, Radio Dabanga reported that the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces, and leader of the ruling Sudan junta, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, has announced the ‘retirement’ of Maj Gen Mohamed Alawi Koko Mukhir, Chairman of the Joint Supervisory Committee for the fractious Abyei, after the general announced his intention to join the paramilitary RSF.


Since the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011, both countries claim the border area of Abyei. The oil-rich region is inhabited primarily by members of the South Sudanese Dinka Ngok clan. It is also the seasonal home of the Sudanese Arab Misseriya herder tribe.

The Abyei status referendum, in which the residents of the region would decide either to remain part of Sudan or become part of South Sudan, was planned to be held simultaneously to the South Sudanese independence referendum in January 2011, but was postponed indefinitely because of disagreements over the process.

The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (Unisfa) was established by the UN Security Council in June 2011 to monitor and verify the redeployment of armed forces from Abyei. Unisfa also has a mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, to protect the area from incursions by unauthorised elements, and ensure security.

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