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Earlier this week a decision from The Hague determined the boundary between north and south Sudan around the town of Abyei. This particular decision stems from an agreement signed last year, but it marks a part of the peace process occuring in Sudan. Benchmark goals like an election in April of next year and a referendum in 2011 are part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – a document that marked the end of 21 years of war.
Following through with the CPA has been a long slog – every step requires buy-in from everyone and all of their constituents and the road thus far has not been easy. A census that was due to be released late last year has been stalled and elections were initially scheduled for this year, but have been moved various times for various reasons. The Hague’s decision is one of the few hopeful events related to south Sudan that we’ve seen recently, with officials on both sides expressing support.
Last May was a different story, however. Over 50,000 people were displaced from their homes and the entire town burned down when fighting broke out between northern and southern troops. Overnight the town of Abyei was in shambles and thousands of lives were disrupted. In February of this year Refugees International visited Abyei and Agok, the town most people fled to. My colleagues spoke with people there and with staff members of the aid groups and UN agencies who are helping displaced people return to their normal lives. People who had fled were scared to return home and everyone expressed apprehension about what would happen if both sides failed to accept the The Hague’s decision.
However, Abyei is just one piece of the puzzle. Millions of southern Sudanese have returned home throughout the region and are trying to rebuild their communities with few resources. The scale and scope of what’s needed right now in southern Sudan is immense and communities are vulnerable to conflicts like Abyei and their aftermath. Right now people in south Sudan want the things most people want: to be able to work, afford food, schooling, medical care and housing for their families.
RI Board Member Matt Dillon captured some of what was happening in Abyei and Agok and went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to talk about his experiences last week. His short documentary, “South Sudan: An Enduring Struggle” provides a bit of a window into the landscape in Sudan at the moment. There are ways we can all help. First, watch the video and tell President Obama that the US must stay committed to peace for all of Sudan on our action page. Then, share the video with your friends and family. Spreading the word about what is happening in south Sudan is essential to keeping the U.S. engaged. Even RI supporter Annie Duke was on Capitol Hill yesterday urging members of Congress to support a comprehensive solution for all of Sudan.
Avoiding greater conflict in the south is vital for keeping the peace in all of Sudan. The flare up in Abyei last year is clearly a symbol of just how quickly things can fall apart. Hopefully this week’s decision is a sign of how they can be put back together.August 10, 2011 | Tagged as: Congress, South Sudan, Sudan, U.S. Administration, United Nations, Humanitarian Response