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Borderlands in Abyei. Presentation By: Jack Dentith John Fenning - Jess Hayes - Kellee Jacobs - Alessia Mura - Sam Rosmarin. May 2008. Over 300 buildings destroyed. May 2008. 30-50 thousand people displaced. Research Question:. What is the nature of the conflict in Abyei?.

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Borderlands in abyei
Borderlands in Abyei

  • Presentation By:

  • Jack Dentith

  • John Fenning

  • - Jess Hayes

  • - Kellee Jacobs

  • - Alessia Mura

  • - Sam Rosmarin

Research question
Research Question:

What is the nature of the conflict in Abyei?

Thesis statement

The process of border formation in Sudan has

been critical in shaping the nature and level of

conflict Abyei in terms of its actors and stakes


  • Borderland Framework

  • Analysis: Border Formation

    • First Sudanese Civil War

    • State (Development) Policy

    • Oil

    • Conflict Interests and Perceptions

    • Hardening Identity Divide

    • International Diplomatic Effort and its Limits

    • Citizenship and Sovereignty


Lord Kitchener of Khartoum

1700s – first interaction between Ngok Dinka and Misserya

1905 – British transfer Abyei to Kordofan Province in the North

1955-1972 –First Sudanese Civil War

1983 – Second Sudanese Civil War begins


Omar al-Bashir and John Garang at the Signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005

2004 –Abyei protocol

2005- Second Civil War ends, Abyei Boundary Commission defines Abyei boundaries

2008 – Renewed clashes in Abyei

2009 – International Arbitration modifies ABC boundaries

2011 – Southern Referendum, but no Abyei referendum

Borderlands framework
Borderlands Framework

What are borders?

What are borderlands?

How do they affect conflict?

Borders are time written in space rupnik 1994
Borders are “Time written in space” (Rupnik, 1994)

The Sudanese Borderlands Today

What are borderlands
What are Borderlands?

Defined by their contradictions (Anderson and O’Down, 1999)



Violent ‘neuralgia points’ (Goodhand)


Hirst (2005) distinguishes between a frontier, which is fluid and mobile, and a border, which is fixed

Border formation

External Factors

Local Processes and Perceptions

Border Formation

British colonialism

National conflict, national identities


‘Development’ policy

CPA – Abyei Protocol


Exclusion and threat of exclusion


Hardened identities


First sudanese civil war 1955 1972
First Sudanese Civil War (1955-1972)

  • Emerging divisions between the Misseriya and the Ngok as a result of national conflict.

  • Seeds of further division sewn in peace: Addis Ababa Agreement (1972)

    • Roots of Southern Autonomy

    • Referendum for Abyei

Interactions within Borderlands

Dinka Cattle Camps

Misseriya Cattle Camps

Oil Pipelines

Nomadic Routes

Grazing Areas

State development policy
State (Development) Policy

  • Agricultural policy

    - large irrigated schemes + attempted settlement of nomads- balance of payments + conflict due to ‘underdevelopment’

     Encroachment + Marginalisation- Misseriya pushed south + feel excluded from Abyei Development Project (1978-1981)

  • Emasculation of Local Leaders + Land Rights

    • Native Adminstration Yea or Nay?

       Changes in the way land is used and perceived


Oil profits allowed the NCP to wage its

wars in Abyei

Abyei production:

2003: 25% of total production

2009: 1% of total production

The process of border formation problematised the presence of oil in Abyei and vice versa

Conflicting interests and perceptions
Conflicting Interests and Perceptions

Dinka and Misseriya Leaders

  • Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005)

  • - Abyei as an intense theatre of conflict

Isolation and Marginalization of both groups

Threatened livelihoods


Formation of national identities

National stakes

Hardened identity divide
Hardened Identity Divide

  • Identities defined in opposition

  • Instrumentalisation of Identities

  • Soft Boundaries  Hard Borders

International diplomatic efforts
International Diplomatic Efforts

Bashir and IGAD

  • Comprehensive Peace Agreement

    • Abyei Protocol

      • Referendum

      • Boundary demarcation

  • International Boundary demarcation

    • Abyei Boundary Commission 2005

    • Permanent Court of Arbitration 2009

International border demarcation
International Border Demarcation

Oil fields removed by PCA ruling

PCA - 22 July 2009

Limits of external mediation
Limits of External Mediation

‘Troika’: US Norway UK

Perceptions of bias

Has external diplomatic intervention in Abyei exacerbated the conflict?

Is the current conflict just on big ‘tragic misunderstanding?’

Citizenship and sovereignty
Citizenship and Sovereignty

Voter Ballot in January’s Referendum on Southern Secession

“the border conflict is fundamentally a conflict over who is a citizen, who should have a vote and who should organize the election in the first place” (Anderson and Hamilton 1999)

Citizenship and sovereignty1
Citizenship and Sovereignty

  • Citizenship means

    • Political and economic rights

    • Identity ascription

  • How to determine citizenship?

    • Land rights vs. identity

  • Dual citizenship

  • Limited Rights


“The (ABC) decision should have no practical effect on the traditional grazing patterns of the two communities as those patterns were followed for many years until they were disrupted by armed conflict”

Abyei Boundary Commission Report, 14 July 2005


- Borderland framework is useful in explaining the conflict in Abyei

- Important factors:

  • Colonial Legacy

  • Development Policies

  • Civil Wars

  • Resources

  • International Intervention

  • Border formation transformed the conflict in nature and scale.

  • What s it all worth
    What’s It All Worth?

    Falling on the right side of the border

    =Pride, Dignity and Power