The United Nations Stabilization Force in Abyei UNISFA, International Organization for Migration IOM, the Food and Agricultural Organization FAO and Concordia International have brokered a peace agreement between the Ngok Dinkas and Misseriyas of the disputed Abyei Box that lies between the borders of Sudan and South Sudan in a 4-day engagement in Todach from 20-23 March 2023.
The 4-Day conference, which is jointly organized by UNISFA, was aimed at reviving and reviewing the Agreements signed by the two feuding communities in 2016 on how to peacefully manage the annual transhumance migration without recourse to violence. The main objective was to deliberate on the seasonal challenges and expectations that usually come with the movement of cattle.
The conference took place under a very calm and peaceful atmosphere with members of the two communities honestly sharing and even tempering their views on hitherto contentious issues, an indication that there are now committed to the search for a more lasting peace and peaceful co-existence that would see an end to the senseless killings within the Abyei Box and guarantee a peaceful transhumance movement.
The two communities that have been at loggerheads over the ownership of land and access to water and grazing areas over the decades, agreed to amongst other things, continue the process of peaceful coexistence between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities, cessation of hostilities and mutual respect between the two sides.
They equally agreed on ensuring freedom of movement within the Abyei Box without restrictions, withdrawal of all militias and armed units from the Abyei Box, and reactivation of the Joint Peace Committee on the side of Ngok Dinka to ensure continuous communication and continue the dialogue through quarterly conferences between both communities at the leadership level.
They also agreed to reactivate the weekly meetings of the Peace Committee and the need for the organizations to support both communities in building peace and trust among citizens.
They called on the peace partners to provide the two communities with humanitarian assistance, and workshops on peace culture, through local radios and public rallies and organize transhumance for pastoralists on yearly basis. They equally called on UNISFA to intensify patrolling along the roads and villages within Abyei Box and to ensure that the two Countries withdraw armed groups and militias within Abyei Box.
In his opening remarks at the start of the meeting, the Acting Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr stated that ” Peace is a process and not an event. it requires patience because the alternative is violence, destruction, and death. Without peace there would be no security, no trade, no contacts, there would be frustration, hunger, poverty, and more mistrust”.
He stated that “we all need peace and development but that the people are the ones who own that peace. There can be no peace without You, the main actors”. He further praised the two communities for having Women and Youths as part of their delegations to the Seasonal Movement Conference.
His statement was complemented by the speech of the Chief Executive Officer of Concordis International Mr Peter Marsden who said peace was a prerequisite to any form of development and encouraged the two communities to always seek dialogue in settling any form of disagreement and misunderstanding.
The FAO and the IOM represented by the Resident Coordinator’s Office Dr Charles Majinge also reiterated the need for peace and dialogue as an important tool for development. The two communities led by Chief Belbel of Ngok Dinka and Sultan Nazir Hamdeen of Misseriya both emphasized the importance of peaceful coexistence between the two communities.
This latest agreement which is in line with the aspirations of the two leaders of Sudan and South Sudan in their engagements is a milestone achievement in Reviving and Reviewing the 2016 Agreement. The two communities have since 2016 failed to meet except for the UNISFA-organized Joint Traditional Leaders Peace Conference held in Entebbe in May 2022.
It is believed that these landmark efforts at the grassroots will allow for a smooth and violence-free transhuman seasonal movement within the Abyei Box which is normally characterized by armed violence resulting in several death, displacement of persons, food insecurity, and severe suffering to Women and children.
UNISFA leadership deeply appreciates the support of the Juba and Khartoum appointment of Chief Administrators and the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan for their efforts in making the Conference a success.