Following weeks of violence in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region, the two sides – the North’s Government of the Sudan and the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – signed an agreement Monday targeted at bringing peace to the region. With the deal, Northern and Southern Sudan have both consented to remove troops from the area.
Former South African president and current chairman of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, Thabo Mbeki, helped to mediate the deal, which was signed in neighboring nation Ethiopia.
As Southern Sudan is set to officially separate from Northern Sudan to become an independent country July 9, the struggle over Abyei, which borders both territories and has been claimed by both sides, had reached a fever pitch in recent weeks. In May, forces from the north seized Abyei causing thousands of residents to flee the area, creating a humanitarian crisis for refugees.
With Monday’s agreement, thousands of Ethiopian peacekeepers (paid for by the United Nations) will temporarily patrol Abyei and an administration made up of Northern and Southern officials will be set up to dispense more officers. The deal also calls for the safe return of refugees to their homes.
A 2005 peace deal ended a civil war between the north and south that left 2 million people dead. With that deal the south was allowed to vote to separate from the north, which they did in January. But issues such as where Abyei belongs and sharing the nation’s oil wealth still haven’t been resolved.
Still Pagan Amam, a southern leader, is happy with the deal, believing it is a step in the right direction.
“This will create an environment for negotiations and to finalize the final status of Abyei and resolve other outstanding issues,” he said.
But as one issue appears to be on the road to resolution, another one could be getting worse.
The border state of Southern Kordofan, which in recent weeks has seen violent clashes between forces from the north’s government and ethnic minority Nuba mountain rebels, remains another top concern. Many in Southern Kordofan, a Northern state, voted for succession from the north, and fought on the side of the south during the civil war. The recent fighting, which has included aerial attacks, has caused hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes, according to the African Union the BBC reports.
Mediation talks on this conflict continue to take place in Ethiopia.
(Photo: REUTERS/Phil Moore)