Swedish ambassador meets parties in Abyei

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19 April 2011 – Completing a two-day visit to Abyei today, Swedish Ambassador to Sudan Jan Sadek stressed the need for politicians to take responsibility in finding a lasting agreement on the disputed area.

“We have visited both sides of the divide in the Abyei region and the situation is very tense,” he said, before departing for Khartoum.

“Through our talks with people from both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya (tribes) we understand their positions and it is unfortunate that the two sides seem to be far away from any kind of compromise or solution,” he added.

During his stay, Ambassador Sadek met with Abyei Acting Chief Administrator Gen. Mario Dak, UNMIS Abyei Head of Office Guang Cong, UNMIS Acting Sector Commander Lt. Col. Dammy George Mwale, Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief Amir Kuol, Misseriya Chief Abdullah Hamid Asheen and other officials.

Earlier in the day, walking among Misseriya cattle on the outskirts of Goli village, 23 kilometres north of Abyei town, the ambassador said it was sad that traditions had broken down this year for the first time.

After many generations of peaceful co-existence, the Misseriya cattle migration has not been able to reach its time-honoured grazing areas across the Kiir River to the south of Abyei.

According to the Misseriya, it is the first time in nearly 400 years that their migration has been unable to arrive at these long-established areas of pasture.

Unable to proceed any further, the nomadic Misseriya and their livestock are congregated in and around Goli. UNMIS Abyei Civil Affairs unit has been working to build an association with the population.

Seth Kumi, head of Civil Affairs in Abyei, said it was vital to establish and maintain good relations, given problems the migration had encountered this year.

“It’s important because here in Goli we have a high concentration of Mazaghna Misseriya, who traditionally use the central migratory corridor,” he said outside a roadside teashop, where Ambassador Sadek met with the head of Goli village, Misseriya Chief Asheen, and other elders.

“This year, though, they have not been allowed to cross into Southern Sudan and as a consequence, the population here in Goli has swelled to over 300 people, including women and children, 7,000-8,000 heads of sheep and 15,000 heads of cattle,” said Mr. Kumi.

He added that Misseriya leaders were still hopeful that they would travel to the Kiir River south of Abyei, but it was becoming increasingly unlikely.

“We expect the rains to begin in 2-3 weeks, when the Misseriya nomads will prepare to begin their northern migration back to Muglad in South Kordofan, arriving sometime in July,” Mr. Kumi said.

Those rains are seemingly not far away. On the journey back to Abyei town, brooding clouds had begun to build.

Later that afternoon the first few drops began to fall, their arrival signalling the end of one season and heralding the imminent beginning of another.