Did the Abyei Protocol Die with Dr. Garang?
By Akol Meyan Kuol
Abyei was one of the so-called ‘Three Conflict Areas’ during the Sudanese peace process some years back before a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was concluded on 9th January, 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya. Other two conflict areas were Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains Regions.
Abyei is the homeland of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan by the British in 1905. They are as follows: Abior, Achaak, Achueng, Allei, Anyel, Bongo, Diil, Man-nyuar and Mareng. Ngok Dinka were based in Ngol but were displaced by the Missiriya, when they invaded it with the help of the Sudan Armed Force in December 1964-January 1965.
Then Ngok came and settled in Rum-Wut, but they were attacked again, so they left those areas for good. Ngok Dinka got defeated in those battles because they did not have weapons. Thereafter, Ngok moved southward and came and settled in the current Abyei. And with that withdrawal they lost all northern areas of Abyei.
The withdrawal of the British from Sudan without settling the Abyei issue and the invasion of the Missiriya with the help of the Sudan Armed Force to Ngol and Rum-Wut angered Ngok and prompted them to join the southern rebellion of Anyanya 1 which started on the 18th August, 1955, in Torit garrison. Some of the Ngok fighters who emerged were Akonon Mithiang and Ayok Deng Makuei, to mention but few.
Then in 1972, the Anyanya 1 and Nimeiri regime reached an agreement, which was known as Addis Ababa Agreement. That agreement granted a self-autonomous government for south Sudan and placed Abyei under the presidency.
The conflict between the Missiriya and Ngok has ever been over the Ngokland. Because throughout the history, Missiriya have been using the Ngokland for grazing. They come in summer every year with their cattle and go back to their areas in Muglad.
As they are on their way back, they take their cattle to Ngok farms, burnt stores of sorghum and kill Ngok Dinka; and when the new year comes, especially, when it is about summer season they would ask for reconciliation with Ngok Dinka so that they are allowed to come to Ngokland with their cattle for grazing. As Ngok are peace-loving people, they would forgive them.
And because Abyei, the homeland of Ngok Dinka is fertile for agriculture and rich with the resources; such as forestry, fishing, livestock and above all, the whole land is divided by a number of rivers and this sparked off a continuous conflict between the Missiriya jointly with the successive governments in Khartoum against the Ngok Dinka. They jointly developed a deliberate and permanent policy over the years of wiping away the Ngok Dinka from their homeland, Abyei, and remain with the land.
The discovery of oil in Abyei in 1974 gave the Abyei conflict a new dimension and complicated the issue. In 1977 a big number of Ngok civilians were killed on the way by the Missiriya. They were coming back from northern Sudan to Abyei for holiday. Among those killed a prominent educated Ngok and researcher coming to collect data for his PhD thesis. He was called Mark Mijak Abiem Bagat. His thesis was on the history of Sudan . He wanted to re-write the history of Sudan . Because according to him, the history of Sudan was written by the Arab Sudanese; from Arab Sudanese perspective. Therefore, it did not reflect the huge contributions of the African Sudanese, and which is true. The history books that are written by the Arab Sudanese show that African Sudanese did not play any significant role in making the history of Sudan .
So the killing of Ngok Dinka on the way that I mentioned somewhere in this article plus another one which occurred in Babanusa, followed by some other organized killing incidents by the Missiriya and Sudan Armed Force in Abyei Area prompted Ngok Dinka to resort to armed struggle. Therefore, Abyei Liberation Army was born in 1981, led by Commander Luk Yowe, to protect Ngok civil population and safeguard the Ngok homeland from the invading forces of the Missiriya and Sudan Armed Force.
Thereafter, several heavy battles took place between the Sudan Armed Force and the Ngok freedom fighters in a number of villages in Abyei Area; such as Maker-Abior and Lou, to mention but few. Unfortunately, the leader of Abyei Liberation Army got killed after a very heavy battle with the Sudan Armed Force.
His body was then tied to an armoured car and was dragged down from the battle field till it reached Abyei Town . Sudan Armed Force soldiers were singing victory songs from their way up to Abyei Town . all Arab men and women came out of their houses to see the dead body of a rebel leader. They were all celebrating while it was a worst day to Ngok people since their Ngokness has been humiliated. It was in 1982 when Commander Luk Yowe was killed. It was also a sorrowful day for me when the news reached me in my chiefdom, Diil.
His followers did not give up the struggle after his death; because the cause of the struggle was still in their hearts. Then in 1983, rebellion took place in Ayot, Waath and Bor. Those rebellions led to the birth of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) led by the late leader Honourable Commander Dr. John Garang de Mabior. And the movement called upon the marginalized people all over Sudan to join it to fight for the creation of a New Sudan that reflects its diversity.
So Ngok were among the first people who joined the SPLM/A.; and they went in big numbers. They underwent military training and got engaged in the battle fields in all the fronts where SPLA has been fighting in the last 21 years of the bloody war. Ngok lost dearest ones, among them were Bagat Aguek, Deng Mior, Wuor Jok Abyei, Malual Biong, Arop Mading, Ibrahim Deng Bul and Mijak Miyen Kuol. It is because of the honest sacrifices that were made by these Ngok martyrs and other martyrs whom I did not mention plus the living ones that Ngok people managed to get this important and valuable Abyei Protocol which is yet to be implemented.
After all, armed struggle was not an objective rather than a way of pressure. Therefore, diplomacy remains the best mechanism for settling human being’s problems. And that is why the problems of the north and south, including Southern Blue Nile , the Nuba Mountains/Southern Kordofan and Abyei were settled through peaceful means (diplomacy).
The Current Situation in Abyei Area
I visited Abyei Area between June and July this year, and I spent 12 days in the area; six (6) days in the SPLM controlled area in Agok (SPLM Headquarters) south of Kiir River and six (6) days in Abyei Town north of Kiir River . In fact, there is no significant change that has taken place in Abyei Area after the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9th January, 2005, in Nairobi , Kenya .
SPLM authority and SRRC in Agok are well organized but they don’t have resources to provide social services to the civil population. However, they get high respect and its authority is well recognized by the civil population in Agok. Mr. Joseph Dut Paguot is the Executive Director of the SPLM authority over there. SRRC/HAC main office is in Abyei Town headed by Mr. Bol Dau, while his deputy Mr. Chol Aguek is the one in charge of the SRRC/HAC in Agok. It is the sons and daughters of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms who are in full control of SRRC/HAC in Abyei Area now.
According to the SPLM, SRRC/HAC and civil population, many IDPs have come back from the north after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, last year. And they say many came back after the death of the late Sudanese leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior. According to the IDPs, the death of Dr. Garang led to the killing of many black people in Khartoum by the Arabs and that is why they decided to come back and die in their homeland.
They all say that Arabs started to poison the black girls and women who work in their houses as servants after the death of Garang. Also many Ngok civilians don’t believe if the cause of death of Dr. John Garang was a mere accident.
I visited some villages south and north of Kiir River ; it is amazing that the beauty of Ngokland is still there; it is calling on all its children to come back to it. According to SPLM, SRRC/HAC and civilians, Ngok have gone back up to now to about 21 old villages north and south of Kiir River and they mentioned a number of the villages; such as Wun-Peith, Mijak, Mabok, Noong, Lou, Maker-Abior, Mading-Achueng, Dokura, Awuol-Nam, Dungop-Allei, Todaj, Rumamer, among others. According to them it is a few IDPs who came back from south Sudan .
They say, unfortunately, many IDPs went back to the north due to a number of reasons; among them absence of Abyei Administration, lack of the basic social services; such as health care, food, shelter, running water and schools. They say (IDPs) those schools that are there are not enough and have lower classes up to primary five (5) mostly, and they are in English which is a big problem for their children. It is to be recalled that Arabic Language is the medium of education in Northern Sudan .