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Foreign Arbitration Over Abyei Area Was Needless By Dr. James Okuk
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Jul 29, 2009 - 10:57:40 AM

Foreign Arbitration Over Abyei Area Was Needless


By Dr. James Okuk


The ruling of The Hague based International Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) over the disputes between SPLM and NCP about the ABC demarcations and mandate did not amuse me because it was needless, it is useless and it will be hopeless for the goodness of the very needy people of Abyei Area (the Ngok Dinka, Misseriya, and etc).


This ruling has only resolved temporarily the geographical coordinates of the physical map, but not the real human challenges of the majority of Abyei Area residents.  The money, time and human lives wasted on this contention could have been spent on better deeds for peace-building and sustainable development in Abyei Area.


I did not celebrate the news of the PCA ruling over Abyei Area because it offered nothing good to the suffering people living there in particular, to the poor people of Southern Sudan in general, and even to the marginalized people of the Sudan at large. This ruling subtracted nothing from the pressing negative realities that have been disturbing the masses who inhabit the Abyei Area, abject poverty and backwardness


The status quo remains and will still remain despite the professional arbitration over Abyei Area by the self-enriching international judges of the PCA. No real peace and no sincere development will be seen in Abyei Area because the so-called political leaders who control government powers and wealth in the Sudan do not, and will not care for anything good except their selfish gains from the conflict over Abyei Area. The quarrels that they have had over Abyei Area were not for the improvement of the life opportunities of the poor people who live there, but only for grabbing the ‘Oil Money’ and other bloody benefits that are gleaned from the lucrative resources available in the Area.


What makes the PCA ruling agonizing is that the international community just urged (diplomatically) the two native CPA partners to respect and implement the ruling; nothing else has been said beyond this. In fact, the required commitment is to promote the reputation of the PCA so that its judges, lawyers and lobbyists could make more money from similar kinds of ruling in future, using Abyei Area case as a ‘successful’ legal precedent. But the hard fact remains; the common good of the Abyei Area residents have not and will never be the sole concern of the PCA and the International Community. Their concern will continue to be how to ship the ‘Blood Oil’ and other valuables located underneath in Abyei Area to Industrial Countries in the West and the East.


What difference does it make when it is said at an international court that Abyei Area belongs to the Nine Ngok Dinka Chieftaincies when it was already known at the traditional local courts that the Area belonged to them, given the history of their ancestors and how they became the best brothers and sisters to the nomadic Misseriya Arab tribe in that bridging territory between the North and South of the Sudan? 


Will the international legal affirmation of this 'Sense-of-Belonging' change the living standard of the poor people who continuous to linger in poverty and other social insecurities in Abyei Area? I do not think so nor am I optimistic for a better future for them under the current bad leadership and governance in the Sudan, especially the SPLM whose cadre is the Chief Administrator of Abyei Area.


I have no doubt that the poor people (be they Dinka Ngok, Arab Misseriya or whoever is defined legally to be a resident of Abyei) will continue to live in primitive huts without clean water and sanitary facilities. They will continue to move on bad roads. Their children will continue to learn in poor schools or even not get formal education at all. They will continue to live without adequate hospitals and veterinaries. And they will continue to live with lack or insufficiency of all other basic amenities needed for dignified human life despite the declaration by the PCA that Abyie Area belongs to Ngok Dinka with recognition of existence of other residents in the Area. Perhaps the only sign of better infrastructure over there will continue to be the tall Muslim Mosque in the centre of Abyei’s market where both the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya go to pray five times a day, and go to listen to Imams’s sermons one time on Fridays.


I am emphasizing “ other residents” here because the PCA ruling was about geographical boundaries only and not about the nature and identity of the people located therein. In fact, and I repeat, the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration over Abyei Area disputes was just needless, is just useless and will never restore the good hopes of the people who have been bearing the burdens of living over there. I am sorry to sound a cynic here but this is the real case after all.


Dr. James Okuk is a concerned Southerner and a recently PhD awarded candidate in the University of Nairobi. He can be reached at [email protected]

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