Flashpoint for Conflict
- A PREMONITION?
An indication of terrors to come was in
the violent ethnic clashes suffered by Dinka people in Abyei district in
Extract from The Road to Abyei (John Ryle, Granta 26, Spring 1989):
"It was hard to avoid hearing stories of atrocities committed by the Arab militias. This woman had been raped; this man tortured and castrated; the man's wife had been killed in front of him; a boy of ten had been kidnapped and kept for two years as a servant, beaten when he tried to escape, and finally killed. There were clearly many Dinka still in captivity".
Abyei lies on the border-line between north and south, where Kordofan dips down into Bahr al-Ghazal. Most of Abyei's inhabitants were Ngok Dinka, who might have expected to be governed from Juba, which was then capital of an "autonomous" Southern Sudan.Top
However, the disproportionate political power of the Meseriya Arab minority had helped to ensure that the district was incorporated into Kordofan, and ruled from Khartoum. This decision generated a great deal of local resentment, and Ngok Dinka activists pressed for Abyei to be made part of Bahr al-Ghazal.Top
In 1977 President Nimeiri made peace - called "National Reconciliation" - with Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, which Nimeiri had banned. He then used al-Mahdi to encourage the deployment of Meseriya militia forces - initially armed by the Umma - against Ngok Dinka villages around Abyei.
Traditional arrangements between the leaders of the Arab and non-Arab tribes broke down as a result of outside interference with modern weaponry. Thousands of Ngok Dinka were displaced when their homes were burned and looted, many were killed at random, and others were seized as slaves, to sell or to hold to ransom.Top