Renewed Unrest in Abyei Threatens Sudanese Peace

May 23, 2011

Unrest in the town of Abyei, situated on the border between Sudan and the soon-to-be independent state of Southern Sudan, is raising concerns locally and internationally about a possible reprise of the civil war that ravaged the country for decades between 1955 and 2005.

Northern troops invaded Abyei on May 21, taking over the city and causing an estimated 20,000 Southern Sudanese residing there to flee. Burning and looting are reported to be ongoing, in spite of calls from the United Nations Mission in Sudan and members of the UN Security Council for Khartoum to rein in its troops and establish control over armed elements operating in the area. Southern Sudanese officials are calling the invasion and occupation of Abyei illegal, and protesters are rallying in the Southern capital of Juba.

Juba is also the seat of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), headed by the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul. The ECS has been very active in responding to the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) and returning refugees during all stages of the peace negotiations and the 2011 referendum on independence. Episcopal Relief & Development has reached out to Archbishop Deng Bul to offer assistance in this time of renewed turmoil.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 put an official end to the North-South conflict and mandated the referendum on the secession of Southern Sudan that was held in January 2011. Although the referendum passed by a wide margin – Southern Sudan’s independence will take effect on July 9, 2011 – conflict in Abyei prevented voting from taking place there, and the status of Abyei was left to be decided at a later date.

Episcopal Relief & Development stands with the ECS during this difficult time, and encourages prayers for those living in the midst of this unrest.