SUDAN WATCH: Abyei: Misseriya tribe fears losing traditional grazing rights

Friday, October 09, 2009

Abyei: Misseriya tribe fears losing traditional grazing rights

The Misseriya tribe fears losing traditional grazing rights in the area because it believes Abyei will vote to join Southern Sudan when it decides in a 2011 referendum to secede from Sudan, said tribal leader Mukhtar Babu El-Nimer.

“It will be a border of a whole different country to cross into with our cattle,” El-Nimer said in a phone interview from the state of South Kordofan. The Misseriya decided to reject the ruling at a conference that ended on Oct. 5, he said.

El-Nimer said his tribe will appeal the decision in The Hague or in Sudanese courts and will resort to violence only “if we are forced to.” The Misseriya will also try to bolster its presence in the area, he said.

Source:  Bloomberg by Maram Mazen in Khartoum, Sudan, October 9, 2009 -
Sudan Arab Tribe Rejects Ruling on Oil-Producing Abyei Region
The leader of the main Arab tribe in Sudan’s disputed oil-producing region of Abyei says he rejects an international court ruling that set new boundaries, raising concern about the possibility of renewed violence in the area.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July set borders that gave the Ngok Dinka ethnic group control over Abyei. The Misseriya tribe fears losing traditional grazing rights in the area because it believes Abyei will vote to join Southern Sudan when it decides in a 2011 referendum to secede from Sudan, said tribal leader Mukhtar Babu El-Nimer.

“It will be a border of a whole different country to cross into with our cattle,” El-Nimer said in a phone interview from the state of South Kordofan. The Misseriya decided to reject the ruling at a conference that ended on Oct. 5, he said.

Clashes over control of Abyei between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka last year killed 89 people and displaced 90,000 more, according to the United Nations. The Misseriya fought with the north during the two-decade civil war against southern rebels that ended in 2005.

President Umar al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum, the administration in the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan, and the Ngok Dinka leadership have accepted the court ruling.

El-Nimer said his tribe will appeal the decision in The Hague or in Sudanese courts and will resort to violence only “if we are forced to.” The Misseriya will also try to bolster its presence in the area, he said.

“We will bring in more people so that we keep the same life our grandparents had,” he said.

Armed Groups

Fouad Hikmat, a Sudan expert at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, called the Misseriya statements rejecting the court ruling at their conference “very serious.”

“The people who made those statements are leaders of armed groups within the Misseriya,” he said in a telephone interview from Nairobi, Kenya.

The Misseriya are pastoralists who move from South Kordofan state with their cattle each year during the dry season into Abyei, where the Ngok Dinka reside. They want Abyei to be run as a “joint land” with the Ngok Dinka, El-Nemir said.

Bashir’s government was pleased that the court ruling left the Bamboo and Heglig oil fields outside of Abyei, effectively allowing the authorities in Khartoum to retain control, while southerners applauded the decision to award the area to nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms.

Oil Production

Oil production around Abyei accounted for about 8 percent of Sudan’s total output in 2007, according to the International Crisis Group. Sudan pumps about 500,000 barrels per day and most of its reserves are in the south.

Arop Madut Arop, a representative for Abyei in the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, said the Bashir government may be pressuring the Misseriya to reject the ruling.

“The Misseriya must be pressured by someone else, maybe the government,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday from Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. “The government must be asked why they are silent about the Misseriya’s statements.”

Officials at Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party didn’t immediately respond to telephone calls seeking comment.

Hikmat of the Crisis Group believes the Southern Sudan authorities may hold the key to assuaging Misseriya fears over their future grazing rights.

“They have to meet directly to discuss ways of coexistence and to have a kind of understanding and build trust between them,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum via Cairo newsroom mmazen@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: October 9, 2009 05:20 EDT
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