The Crisis in Abyei, Updated April 2011

Originally published


With just over two months remaining before South Sudan formally declares its independence from the North, the crisis in Abyei remains the most intractable of the post-referendum issues facing the country.

At issue is whether Abyei should join South Sudan or remain in the northern state of South Kordofan. While the Ngok Dinka, the residents of Abyei, want to join the South, the Missiriya, semi-nomadic cattle herders who annually graze in the region, are bitterly opposed to this possibility. At stake is the Diffra oil field in the north of the territory, Misseriya grazing land, and the livelihood and future of the Ngok Dinka. Clashes broke out after Abyei did not hold a scheduled referendum on its future in January, due to continuing disagreement between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP). February and March saw the worst violence in the territory since 2008, as Misseriya militia forces attacked police positions and civilians, leaving 154 dead.