August 18, 2021 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s Investment minister has denied reports of his alleged involvement in holding private discussions with the United Nations mission in Abyei (UNISFA) over the status the existence of their base in his area.
- Map showing the lcoation of the contested Abyei region in relation to Sudan and South Sudan
Minister Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol denied in a statement on Wednesday that he held private discussions with the leadership of the interim force for Abyei at which asked them to remain in the area despite public protest demanding the peacekeeping troops to pull out of the area with immediate effects.
“South Sudanese in general and Aweil communities in particular were well aware that I was in the frontline with the rest of compatriots, who came out in defense of 14 miles in 2012. I made my position clear before the African Union team of experts by presenting the circumstances behind the creation of 14 miles and why we think it was not a boundary”, Dhieu wrote in a statement obtained by Sudan Tribune.
He was reacting to a social media post accusing him of backtracking local demand protesting the continuous stay of the troops in the area.
Public demonstrations have been held in recent days in the counties of Aweil North and East whose areas were included in the map at the insistence of the Government of Sudan (GoS) during the talks facilitated by the African union high-level implementation Panel. Sudan feared an exclusion of the area in the Safe Demilitarize Buffer Zone amounts to a concession of the territory to South Sudan.
The latter asserts ownership of the area and pledge to provide access to grazing and water points to areas Sudanese nomads from Darfur and in Kordofan regions at the border with neighboring South Sudan.
The fear held by the Sudanese government at the talks led to designation of the area as a demilitarized zone, monitored by a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), to be composed of international observers from UNISFA and representatives of both countries. Within this area, ‘join tribal mechanisms’ are supposed to resolve disputes.
The area is mainly occupied by the Malual Dinka. The Rizeigat, one of the Sudanese nomads from Darfur annually accesses the area south of the Kiir River for grazing.
The local and national authorities say disputes over grazing in this area are not new. They stretch back to the 20th century. They cite clashes in 1918 which persuaded Patrick Munro, the British colonial governor of Darfur to create a new grazing boundary for the Rizeigat, some 40 miles south of the Kiir.
This decision sparked protest and vociferous complaints from the Malual Dinka, resulting in 1924 a compromise between Munro and Mervyn Wheatley, the governor of Bahr el Ghazal. The two British officials created a zone of Rizeigat grazing that extended to a line 14 miles south of the River Kiir. This line is known today as the Munro-Wheatley line, and the zone that it demarcates is referred to as the 14-Mile Are