Sudan - Abyei - RFI interview

Nomads accused of settling in contested Sudanese region


Arab nomads are reportedly settling in Abyei, a Sudanese region that straddles the country's north and south, ahead of referendums that will decide on Southern Sudan’s self-determination, and whether Abyei will become a part of it.


Rou Manyiel, who represents civil society organisations, told RFI the nomads, members of the Misseriya tribe, were being pushed into oil-rich Abyei by Sudan’s government, in the capital Khartoum.

“They are settling in the land in numbers no less than 1200, with armed militia protecting them. Nobody goes down to that area – if your cattle goes to that area, it is looted,” Manyiel said.

Interview: Rou Manyiel

As South Sudan holds its referendum on independence in January, residents of the Abyei region will simultaneously vote on whether they want to belong to the north or south.

Abyei's referendum law allows members of the southern Dinka Ngok tribe to vote, and the referendum commission is to decide which "other Sudanese" are considered residents of the region and can therefore vote.

The Misseriya, who migrate each year to Abyei in search of pastures for their cattle, are not guaranteed voting rights.

Abyei's referendum commission has not been formed because representatives of north and south Sudan cannot agree on who will head it, leaving the question of Misseriya eligibility open.


The chief administrator of the region, Deng Arop Kuol, told reporters in Khartoum that Misseriya nomads have been moving into 20 locations in northern Abyei.

"We are getting information that they intend to settle 25,000 families in those areas and the number of people will go up to 75,000 in those areas. We believe it is something organised," Kuol said.

"The Misseriya are in no way meant to vote in the Abyei referendum, because they are not residents. They are meant to be nomads.”

Meanwhile Manyiel told RFI the Misseriya had begun building houses and infrastructure, and that the neighbouring state of Southern Kordofan was also behind the settlement drive, working with Khartoum.

“The governor of Southern Kordofan, I am accusing him. He knows what is going on. He should stop these people from coming and settling," Manyiel said.

"He has a secret agreement with them to come and settle in the area.”

“They are for war, they are not for peace. This area should by administered by Abyei, and the residents should be those from Abyei.”

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