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Sudanese from border region skeptical of newest Abyei agreement

The thousands of Sudanese civilians who fled Abyei last month are wary about returning because they doubt the staying power of the most recent agreement to bring peace.

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“I haven’t met a single family who is convinced by this agreement to go back,” said Rou Manyiel, the president of civil society in Abyei town who was displaced during the fighting and fled with his wife and three children, over the phone from Agok. “People lost their lives and property in 2008, but then we went back. Now it has happened again, but worse.” News of the agreement does not change his family’s plans to stay in Agok for the indefinite future, because Manyiel said that he is “confident [the Abyei dispute] will end in more fighting.”

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Manyiel pointed out that Monday’s agreement does not address compensation for the displaced and those whose property was destroyed. After the northern army’s bombing campaign, plenty of people may not have much to return to, as images of burned villages from the Satellite Sentinel Project show. Looting was rife once the civilian population was pushed out of the region.

The agreement doesn’t address government responsibility for those losses, instead stating broadly that the North and South will “make a joint appeal for assistance” (from international organizations presumably) on behalf of those who need help returning to the region or who “have lost livelihoods, income, or assets.” Of the 112,000 people displaced, many will fit that profile.

The reservations expressed by those most affected by the violence in Abyei are understandable, said a US government official. The international community is “complicit” in the current crisis because “we should have been pushing for implementation of the Abyei Protocol for a long time,” he said. “People in Abyei feel abandoned.”

The US government began circulating a draft version of the mandate for the Interim Security Force for Abyei yesterday at the United Nations, and a team of Ethiopians who will make up the force will begin consultations over the weekend with SAF currently in Abyei. US Ambassador Susan Rice said that the United States requested that 4,200 Ethiopian troops deploy to the region, emphasizing that the US is working for a swift adoption of the U.N. resolution so that the Abyei agreement can be implemented “immediately and effectively.”

Laura Heaton blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.

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