The United Nations’ Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) facilitated two meetings between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya traditional leaders at Diffra on 16 March and 9 April.
The significance of the two meetings was the attendance of both the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya paramount chiefs. The previous meetings attended by the two paramount chiefs were in 2013 and 2017. The latter meeting was held under the aegis of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa.
While ground-breaking, the meetings of 16 March and 9 April took place at a time of heightened inter-community tensions in Abyei Area. The Nai Nai-Kolom attacks of 19 and 22 January had resulted in a stalling of the southward transhumance of the Misseriya cattle, pending an agreement by leaders of both communities on the way forward.
During the 16 March meeting in Diffra, the two sides assured of their commitment to peace and security in Abyei Area and agreed to meet again in April after consultations with their communities. While no written agreement was reached during the 9 April meeting, both sides reiterated their commitment to peace and agreed to meet again, in a wider format, once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
As part of its Tier I Protection of Civilians (POC) efforts – Tier I is the furtherance of political and peace processes – the Mission has continued to promote and support regular interaction between the two communities, including through the Joint Community Peace Committee. In parallel with POC Tiers I efforts, UNISFA has increased its focus on POC Tier II, the provision of physical security.
Despite this, this month, three incidents of violence have occurred, all linked to the southward movement of Misseriya herders and their cattle. In one incident, on 2 April in Leu, 4 Misseriya owned cows died in a rocket propelled grenade attack and in another, at Hadid near Marial Achak on 9 April, reportedly 2 Misseriya herders were killed and 5 kidnapped, and over 100 cows were rustled.
In line with the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire, UNISFA urges both communities and their respective leadership to take forward the peace process with vision and courage. In so doing, all efforts can be devoted to curbing the possible spread of COVID-19, “the true fight of our lives”. UNISFA also looks forward to the leaders of both communities following through on their verbal commitment to peace by translating their words into appropriate action on the ground.