March 6, 2018 (ABYEI) – Representatives from the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities signed a community peace agreement to support peaceful coexistence between the two groups on 5 March following a three-day conference in the Abyei Administrative Area.
- Map showing the lcoation of the contested Abyei region in relation to Sudan and South Sudan
The conference, supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), attracted over 150 participants from both communities.
Due to long standing tensions, the two groups have experienced conflict in recent years, stemming largely from disputes over grazing land and water as the pastoral Misseriya migrate through Ngok Dinka communities each year.
The conflict between the communities, officials say, has reduced each year since the conferences began in 2016, which were initiated by the international non-governmental organization Concordis and the resolutions agreed upon were put into action.
The accord thus solidifies new resolutions to sustain peace in the area.
Also credited is the Joint Community Peace Committee’s (JCPC) commitment to reduce tension between the two rival communities.
JCPC, a body comprising of community leaders from both sides and supported by the UN and non-governmental organizations is mandated to address conflict drivers, such as cattle raids, disputes in the common market, grazing areas for cattle and access to water.
At the conference, Bakhtan Eldgum, a representative of the Misseriya community said: “Since we began the conferences in 2016, we have become one family. I ask all people to maintain peace.”
Afaf Arop, a women leader from the Ngok Dinka community said:
“These conferences have helped us a lot. We [the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya] can interact without fear”.
At the conference, however, the lack of basic services in the area, such as health facilities and schools emerged as major challenges.
The conference, held in the disputed oil producing region, afforded the two communities a neutral platform to review the progress they have made in implementing the agreement drafted in 2017 and tap on the emerging lessons to draw and sign a new one for 2018.
The agreement, which was discussed extensively in groups and plenary, acknowledges the patience of families who have lost loved ones and states that the immediate act of compensation is crucial for maintaining peace. The peaceful coexistence between the two communities remains front and center of the peace agreement.
Participants said peace has brought economic gains to both communities due to the well-functioning Amiet market, which allowed the trade route between the two Sudans to be re-opened,
Also, the document calls for the strengthening of the JCPC, due to their central role in conflict mitigation and addressing conflict drivers in the community. To support the JCPC, the agreement outlines modalities of engagement between the two communities, including a mechanism for resolving conflicts and a modality for utilizing natural resources during the migration season between December and May.
Meanwhile, a post-migration conference is to be held in June to evaluate implementation of the agreement, ensuring the suggested modalities are fitting to sustain peace for the two communities.