20 Oct 2021


Why Abyei Is Not 'A Bridge" Between Sudan And South Sudan

"It is in the same vein I would counsel a person intent to brave the 125 miles between Abyei and Almuglad: If Abyei is a bridge, it better be left unused".

By Raphael Abiem

An Appeal for Action on Abyei

 Abyei has been all about compromise: The document: Appeal for Action on Abyei, faithfully recounts the woes the area has endured for decades on. Obvious to all, the conflict remains unresolved. Ngok people have and continue to do all that is humanly possible to appease the Arabs. These efforts have included:

1. As far back as 1800’s, Leadership paid homage to Mohammed Ahmed ibn Abdallah in a bid to create atmosphere conducive to coexistence. Upon their return home, friendship ran dry and was forgotten.

2. Leadership created and concluded a blood covenant with a lead Arabs clan. This too did not last, and hostilities returned invigorated.

3. Private individuals embraced Islam. Some became Sheiks in their own right. That has never been enough reason for truce to reign when it was season to kill Dinka people, coreligionists or not. Some were slaughtered with the Quran, prayer beads and prayer mat in hand.

4. For some years now, Ngok opened a marketplace and invited Arabs to pitch their shop anywhere in the area designated for the market. It was an effort to extend a hand of friendship even when all hopes for good relations seem to have been squandered. What became of it? The usual thing: killings, abuses, abductions on the road leading to the market.

Amidst all this, Ngok people have not given up living and dying in their homeland. What more could Ngok do short of surrender to Arab domination? Alas, this, in a small way, has been tried and it never worked.

The Ngok have given in so much to have what modicum of peace they could. Ngok’s intention, however, has never been to endear themselves to the North so to be accepted as part of the milieu. They are, simply put, peace loving people, ready to coexist with aliens (Jur), as Arabs are called in Abyei. With all these pressures, Ngok has remained solidly African, deeply rooted in their tradition. Not one clan, Dhien, has destroyed their (yiek), cursed their totems or given up invoking the spirits of Ancestors just to appease Arabs.

To the detail, Ngok is as African as any region in South Sudan. It may be the northern most region, but it occupies a sliver of land in the 1,937 miles long border. How has she come to be the only bridge of all areas lining the border with the North? It is history, and it is the validity of that history Ngok is out to question. We know agreements are either honored or dishonored. There is enough evidence that whatever agreement Ngok representatives had struck with Arabs, has been vitiated by them more times than we can count.

Why language Matters: Abyei is not a Bridge? The last ditch attempt at appeasing the North has been to cast Abyei as the bridge connecting Arab Sudan with African South. This language is deeply flawed as it camouflages the solid truth:

1. Abyei is no less African than Kafia Kingi, Yambio, Rank or any other town as is rooted in tradition as any other tribe.

2. Abyei is not between Sudan and African South. Abyei is a region in the borders with the Sudan like any other Southern tribe or town bordering the north. It is not the sole point at which Southerners cross north or the reverse. No need to belabor this point lest it turns patently ridiculous.

3. If every point in the 1,937 miles is a bridge, indeed Abyei must be one too. To single it out as the BRIDGE, is rooted in one fact, the much dishonored covenant referred to above. Nothing in lived reality upholds it.

Why then is Abyei singled out as the bridge ? is it because it is the safest crossing point or the easiest to access? Not at all. If anything, and if a bridge at all, Abyei is a deadly one. There is no need to elaborate; facts behind this bold allegation are clearly not in dispute.

An analogy would make it clearer; think of a pilot who steers his boat into the eye of the Bermuda Triangle, a spot where countless ships are known to have mysteriously disappeared, would anyone in good faith insist that should be the route to walk? Many times, the Ngok winked at reality and braved that bridge, nonetheless. The outcome has been journeys to eternity. Why then are we discussing the utility of a much-tested bridge? Should more people die before we are convinced the bridge is at best a haunted edifice?

It is in the same vein I would counsel a person intent to brave the 125 miles between Abyei and Almuglad: If Abyei is a bridge, it better be left unused.


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