ABYEI: NEW BORDER, SAME OLD STORY
6.30pm, Tuesday 19th April, The Factory, Bristol
(People’s Kitchen afterwards as usual)
Richard Biong: Dinka Ngok activist & former Abyei resident Tim Flatman: UK activist recently returned from Abyei.
The imposition of a new national border dividing North & Sudan Sudan is exaggerating tensions between neighbouring Dinka Ngok and Misseriya communities as the Government of Sudan manipulate the situation to grab land, resources & increase their bargaining power in negotiations between political elites in North & South Sudan.
The Dinka Ngok people cannot defend themselves alone, when faced with superior weaponry provided by the Government of Sudan. Their calls to relations in the South to defend their land and homes as villages are burned & they are forced to flee are being resisted by international governments who insist on negotiating a solution themselves, constantly redrawing borders in response to fresh waves of state-sponsored violence, in effect rewarding ethnic cleansing. International governments have the South Sudanese over a barrel in respect of recognition of South Sudan following an official declaration of independence in July this year. South Sudanese would flock to Abyei to defend the victims of ethnic cleansing and help them protect their homes and livelihoods, but for the pressure being put on them by external governments through their own government.
The very concept of a border is part of the problem. Dinka Ngok want to be considered part of the South when it secedes in July so they are free from the oppressive influence of the Government of Sudan. The border is important to them insofar as it is a limited guarantee that the Government of Sudan & Northern militias attached to it cannot drive them out of their homes. But they do not want a firm border in the tradition of current international norms. The Misseriya, neighbours to the Dinka Ngok, are nomads who travel South through Abyei during the dry season to find a place to graze their cattle. Sometimes they travel through peacefully, sometimes in a violent way, killing Dinka Ngok & destroying homes. The Dinka Ngok want to make their own arrangements with the Misseriya about how they travel through Abyei – how many arms they will be allowed to carry as they travel, compensation rules for wanton destruction and so on – without limiting their rights or freedom of movement. They acknowledge that this has been possible in the past when the Misseriya have not been armed by the Government of Sudan, and when the Misseriya have not been encouraged by the Government of Sudan to look to Abyei by manipulating internal electoral boundaries within the North so that other local groups have dominance over them.
That borders are born of violence and necessitate violence in order to maintain them is no surprise to anyone who has tried to cross a border in Europe without the “correct” immigration status and documentation. Abyei is relevant to us all because it shows how elites use borders to divide communities against each other and control land and resources. The struggle of the Dinka Ngok is our struggle. Come to The Factory on Tuesday 19th to hear more and discuss what we can do to answer the Dinka Ngok’s call for solidarity.