Juba, Sudan – The two tribes involved in clashes in the volatile Sudanese region of Abyei have agreed on a framework to prevent further trouble, the area’s chief administrator, Deng Arop Kuol, said today.
Dozens died in three days of fighting that broke out last Friday in the oil-producing area and cast a shadow over an ongoing referendum on independence for Southern Sudan.
The clashes took place in the oil-producing region, which lies along the north-south border, after southern security forces in Abyei prevented the northern, nomadic Misseriya from bringing their cattle to water points in southern Abyei.
The Misseriya travel south every year looking for water and consider any attempt to block their access to water a threat to their existence.
The southern Dinka Ngok tribe, who are aligned with the southern government, and the Misseriya agreed the nomadic tribe will have to pay for a series of killings last year and will have to guarantee passage for southerners travelling to Abyei, Kuol told the German press agency dpa.
“These are the two things to be done and then we can discuss routes of passage for their cattle,” said Kuol.
The three days of fighting involved attacks by Misseriya on police bases in Abyei, Philip Aguer, spokesman for the southern army, said by phone in the southern capital Juba.
According to Aguer, at least 50 Misseriya and 26 southerners were killed in the fighting that threatened to drag both armies back into civil war.
According to Kuol, the framework agreement signed on Thursday in Kadugli, the capital of the northern state South Kordofan, does not guarantee an end to the fighting.
“I can’t tell, it depends upon what the Misseriya have in their minds,” he said.
The ongoing referendum is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and Animist south – a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 2 million southerners and displaced 4 million.
The clashes ended on January 9, the first day of the week-long vote, which is widely expected to see southerners vote to separate from the north.
With two days of voting left, the referendum has been widely praised as peaceful and transparent.
However, a separate referendum on whether Abyei will become part of the north or south has been delayed.
The northern government wants the Misseriya to have voting rights while the south says only permanent residents of Abyei, the Dinka Ngok, should vote.