JUBA: A wave of violence has swept through the Abyei region on the border between South Sudan and Sudan, resulting in the deaths of approximately 40 individuals, with many identified as civilians, over the weekend. The clashes primarily involved rival factions of the Dinka ethnic group and were fueled by a longstanding dispute over the administrative boundary where substantial tax revenue is generated from cross-border trade.
Abyei, known for its oil-rich resources, is jointly administered by both South Sudan and Sudan, both of which claim territorial rights. The recent violence, occurring on February 2 and 3, witnessed the destruction of several markets, widespread looting, and the loss of 19 civilian lives, with an additional 18 people killed in separate attacks on Sunday.
Bulis Koch, the region’s information minister, reported that among the casualties were three children and a local staff member working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The clashes forced hundreds of people to seek refuge in the compound of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeeping force.
Koch pointed to the involvement of young men from neighboring Warrap state and a militia linked to rebel and spiritual leader Gai Machiek in the violence. Notably, there was no immediate response from Warrap State’s information minister, Willima Wol, MSF South Sudan, or UNISFA to requests for comment.
This recent outbreak of violence follows a similar incident in late January, where at least 54 individuals, including women, children, and two UN peacekeepers, lost their lives in attacks within the same region. The ongoing conflict has now displaced over 2,000 individuals, prompting them to seek shelter at UNISFA’s compound.
The international community remains deeply concerned about the escalating violence in the Abyei region, urging diplomatic efforts to address the underlying issues and prevent further loss of life and displacement.