South Sudan on Friday lauded an initiative by the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) to bring together the rival local communities in the disputed border area.
The UNISFA Force Commander and Acting Head of Mission, Maj Gen Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr, is preparing to convene a conference for the traditional leaders of the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya tribes.
The purpose of the meeting, which will take place in Entebbe Uganda on 16-19 May, is to revitalise the local peace process between traditional local leaders.
“We are aware of the initiative by UNISFA. It is a commendable initiative. The two communities have taken time without sitting down and hearing from themselves directly”, said Deng Alor a Minister of East Africa affairs tasked with Abyei.
Alor said the political crisis in Sudan and the strained implementation of the revitalized peace agreement distracted Khartoum and Juba from seeking a resolution of the border dispute and the recurrent intercommunal violence in Abyei.
“These issues have taken the attention of the leaders and this has given people with different agendas to cause havoc as we have recently in Abyei and other areas at the border with Sudan,” said the minister who is also a son of the Ngok Dinka.
The peace initiative would bring together key stakeholders specifically Paramount Chiefs of the two communities and representatives from the civil society, including women’s and youth groups as well as those individuals and organizations involved in local initiatives to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict.
Kuol who is charged with Abyei file in the office of President Salva Kiir pointed out to the clashes that Abyei has been experiencing are more violent conflicts than at any time in the recent past.
Also, he said that the record number of people displaced by inter-communal violence has been a cause for concern.
During the months of February, March and April 2022, the Ngok Dinka found themselves caught in armed clashes with the Misseriya in the north and the Twic Dinka of Warrap state in the south who dispute the control of Anet area.
More than 40 people were killed during the past three months and several villages were burned.
South Sudan appointed Abyei chief administrator Kuol Deim Kuol confirmed the initiative by the UNISFA, saying it was necessitated by recent developments in the area.
Kuol said chiefs of the Dinka Ngok will be led by their paramount chief Bulabek Deng Kuol while youth and members of the civil society groups will be represented by their leaders.
“We are not the one responsible for their selection. This was the initiative of the United Nations and we were just informed and we endorsed it because it is about the peaceful dialogue which is in the interest of everyone,” he added.
The official stressed that the Ngok Dinka have been aggressed in their land and sustained several attacks by the Misseriya.
“So, this peace initiative will be a great opportunity for the Dinka Ngok people to ask what they have done to warrant these attacks,” further said Kuol.
Analysts see the UNISFA peace initiative as an opportunity to defuse tension and a strategy to prevent and control further violence that the area has experienced in the past months.