Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 3 June 2008

Why the UK must act now on Abyei


By Julie Biong

June 2, 2008 — My hometown was destroyed on May 13. The Sudan Armed Forces, supported by tribal militia, massacred the civilian police and burned the churches and homes. There was no declaration of war - the country is at peace. It is unlikely that the criminals will be brought to justice.

There has been no statement from the UK, despite the reports such as this one from the Independent Tuesday, 27 May 2008: “A crime that tests our willingness to stop genocide”. U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson told Reuters on Saturday "Ninety percent of the huts had roofs burned off. There were clothes scattered here and there. It was just devastation. Whole neighbourhoods were destroyed."

Abyei is where my mum lives. My mother Achol Jill is 73 years-old. She escaped when the shooting started, but her neighbour died when her hut was set on fire. She is safe since she reached one of the UN emergency camps to the south of Abyei, but she had only the clothes she was wearing. For four days she had no food to eat. 50,000 displaced residents of Abyei are in emergency camps around Agok and Turalei. Now the rainy season has started and there will be disease. The people cannot go back to Abyei where the gunmen are, and they will now miss this year’s planting season.

Why were the Sudan Armed Forces and militia in Abyei? Because a civilian administrator was put in to give the town services and infrastructure
Think about that. One civilian administrator from the south = a battalion of soldiers from the North.

The Presidency of Sudan was required to provide administration to Abyei as agreed by all parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. What this says on page 63:
The National Government will provide Abyei with assistance to improve the lives of the peoples of abyei, including urbanization and development projects;
But: Abyei does not exist any more. The people are in refugee camps.

The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke to the United Nations Security Council on "Post-conflict Stabilisation: Peace after War" on 20 May. He said that almost a third of conflicts that ended through negotiated settlements restarted within five years "often because the international community has not got its act together in the critical period immediately following."

The Security Council Press release (SC/9333, 20 May) reported: The President of the Security Council, DAVID MILIBAND, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, said the debate’s intention was to put the international spotlight on what could be done to ensure that stabilization and recovery efforts were more effective, particularly in the period immediately following a ceasefire or peace agreement. There had been some admirable examples of the United Nations and the international community tackling conflict and saving lives, but those examples were still the exception, and not the rule. ‘Frankly, we aren’t doing enough’.
In Abyei on May 13th the United Nations peacekeeping observers did nothing. They observed the massacre of civilians and the looting afterwards. Doing nothing just encourages ethnic cleansing.

Now there is a real opportunity for the international community to act. Take Sudan out of the endless cycle of civil wars and broken peace agreements. The first civil war ended with the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972 which promised a referendum on the future of Abyei. The failure of the Khartoum government to honour that promise led to the longer and bloodier second civil war from 1983 (and, incidentally, brought about the downfall of Nimeiry!). The second civil war claimed 2 million lives before it ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 and - the promise of a referendum on Abyei. So far the National Government has broken every single promise made over Abyei in the CPA to placate its militarists. This is a policy of doom for Khartoum. Unless something is done there will be more war and more suffering for Sudanese people who want to live in peace.

“Never again should the international community’s response be left wanting. Let us resolve to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner. Let us also commit to put in place early warning mechanisms and ensure that preventive interventions are the rule rather than the exception.” - Rwandan President Paul Kigame, 2005 World Summit.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity is an international commitment by governments to prevent and react to grave crises, wherever they may occur. The African Union met in March 2005 in Addis Ababa. It embraced the Responsibility to Protect and recognized the authority of the Security Council to decide on the use of force in situations of genocides, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. It also insisted on the need for an empowerment of regional organizations to take action in such cases.

Without effective peacekeeping in Sudan there will be no peace. All parties should be encouraged to meet their part of the Peace Agreement. The UK should speak out now!

The author is a Sudanese from Abyei based in the United Kingdom.

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  • 3 June 2008 17:42, by Majak-da


    Thank you for reminding the sleeping UK. Indeed the UK should stand firm in helping the Sudan to decise on the BORDER either considering 1906 or 1956 demarcation. I however, I doubts whether the western world is the prime solution to Abyei crisis.

    repondre message

    • 3 June 2008 19:02, by Peter Malek

      Mr. Biong,

      Our world, it is the world full of contradictions and injustices because the other day on May 10th 2008 when the JEM attacked Khartoum all the governments in the world including UN condemned the attack on Khartoum.

      The government of Khartoum issued a degree that JEM has become a terrorist movement. However, today it is doing a noble work, the ethnic cleansing in Abyei as you put it. And there is no strong condemnation taken by the international community against Khartoum which is a total indication that this world is full of contradictions.

      What is clear in the world’s move is to praise the evil doers, other wise there is no different beween Omer El Bashir and Sadam Hussein!

      The UK Government you are talking about are the source problem of the Sudan and are the first enemy against the just struggle of South Sudanese and Juba conference in 1947 proved that or unless they are changed, and if so the first thing they should do is to press the Government of Khartoum to immediately compensate the Abyei citizens, to release the Abyei the rightful share of oil revenue to rebuild Abyei and to demarcate the border that will show their genuineness.

      Beside, I urge ourselves, we Southern Sudanese to organize ourselves to die for our land in a noble way since the world does not favor our just struggle and the right to live in our own land.

      But there is someone in our side, God is in our side that one day the citizens of Abyei will praise Him freely in their own land, Abyei God has given them.

      I can be reached: peterayuel@yahoo.com

      repondre message

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