Updated preface, 2008
This book was written in the 1970s and was about to be published in 1977 by the Institute of African and Asian Studies of the University of Khartoum jointly with Ithaca Press in London, when I stopped its publication because of the political tensions that then prevailed in the Abyei area and my fears that the book might prove a complicating factor in determining the future of the Ngok Dinka of Abyei between the North and the South. Since then, the civil war resumed in 1983, and it is well known that the unresolved situation in Abyei triggered a local rebellion that directly contributed to the resumption of hostilitities by Anyanya Two and the eventual escalation into a full-ﬂedged armed struggle under the leadership of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA). Since then, the cause of Abyei, as indeed that of the other border areas of
the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, has been fully embraced by the SPLM/SPLA as an integral part of the struggle. These three marginalized areas had become essential items on the agenda for negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/SPLA which resulted in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of January 9, 2005; ending a war that had lasted for over twenty years. Although the Government initially resisted including these areas in the negotiations, it became quite obvious that without resolving the problems of these areas, no sustainable peace between the North and South was possible. The CPA included special protocols on these three areas. It is particularly noteworthy that the Ngok Dinka have become fully identiﬁed with their southern kith and kin in the struggle and that unlike the post-Addis Ababa situation, where both the central and southern regional governments failed to implement the provisions of the Agreement relating to Abyei, and placed the Abyei issue on the back burner of North-South relations, it is now high on the agenda of the SPLM/SPLA. While the implementation of the Abyei Protocol of the CPA is being impeded, even blocked by the Government, and the situation remains explosive, marginalizing the cause of the people of Abyei is no longer an option. I have decided to publish this book because I believe it provides a historical
background that is of interest in itself and also because the complicated perspectives reﬂected in this background can no longer negatively aﬀect the
interest of the Ngok Dinka people. Positions are now drawn and the issues are well deﬁned. Nothing I say can be manipulated anymore to confuse the issues. In any case, the destiny of the people of Abyei is now in the hands of those who have been driven by despair and lack of response to their call for justice to resort to armed stuggle. While the text remains largely what it was in 1977, with the main chapters
following a historical approach ranging from the Precolonial Period through the Condominium Rule to the Independence Era, a few additions and modiﬁcations have been made to update its relevancy to the current situation. Following the Preface, I have added an overview chapter, a revised version of a paper titled “Abyei: The Ambivalent North-South Border,” now called “Overview of the Problem,” which was initially prepared in 1999 at the request of the Resource Group that was formed by the Inter-Africa Group at the inception of the IGAD peace process in 1994. The document was later shared with the parties, mediators, and resource persons in the Machakos peace process. In Part Three, I have added as Chapter 8, an article that discusses the Abyei Development Project, which was initially prepared for a World Bank conference on Culture and Development. In Part Four, “Eyes on Abyei” was added, which appears as an Afterword in the book Between a Swamp and a Hard Place by David Cole and William R. Huntington, reﬂecting their account of the Abyei Rural Development Project in which the Harvard Institute for International Development was involved. Finally, I have added two pieces that were also prepared for the Machakos process: “Abyei and the Challenge of Sustainable Peace in the Sudan” and “Self-determination and Self-administration: The Critical Choice for Abyei.” A new chapter by Luka Biong Deng has also been added on the Permanent
Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) consideration of the dispute over the Report of Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) and stalled implementation of Abyei Protocol of the CPA. A brief ﬁnal chapter, “The Ngok Dinka Moral Quest for Justice,” concludes the book. A press release on the PCA decision is included as Appendix. I hope and pray that by the time the book is published, the position of
Abyei will be amicably and ﬁnally resolved between the government and the SPLM/SPL and the Abyei Protocol of the CPA fully and credibly implement.