Abyei in Ruins After SAF and SPLA Clashes; Thousands of Residents Displaced

16 May 2008 (SRS)

The fighting that started in Abyei earlier this week between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has displaced most, if not all, citizens of Abyei town. Thousands of people have fled their homes and are now seeking shelter, food, and other necessities in nearby towns.

One Abyei resident, Kaka Mathiang, spoke with Sudan Radio Service by telephone as she was fleeing Abyei to the village of Agok, about 70 kilometers to the south. She said on Tuesday morning as children were going to school and adults were at work or doing their chores at home, she heard shooting and explosions. Sounds of war increased until soon she found herself running with her neighbors away from the town.

She says that those who have fled more recently are saying there are no civilians left in Abyei and houses are all burned down. She also said that because the fighting erupted when the children were at school, many families have been separated in the chaos.

[Kaka Mathiang]: “We ran, all of us. Nobody remains in Abyei. Children could not even run with their mothers. The mothers are running alone and the children are running alone. I also lost my children. I just found them this morning. There is not a single house left standing in Abyei town.”

Ms. Mathiang says she has spent the last three days with virtually no food or water, but she said that even with food and water, what she craves most is stability. She complained that while she and other Abyei residents are losing their homes and running for their lives, most Government of Southern Sudan officials are in Juba attending the second SPLM convention.

[Kaka Mathiang]: “Let the Government of Southern Sudan rescue the situation in Abyei. Let them not talk from very far there in Juba about the people of Abyei. They are far from the citizens and there are a lot of things happening in Abyei.”

She says rumors are spreading that while SAF troops are pouring into the town, Joint Integrated Units (JIU) south of Abyei are not allowing SPLA troops to enter.

This seems consistent with what Government of Southern Sudan President and SPLA Commander-in-Chief Salva Kiir Mayardit said in Juba Thursday evening. He told the convention that he ordered SPLA commanders around Abyei not to march into the town, as it may escalate the conflict. He also urged the National Congress Party, which sent high-level representatives, including Second Vice President of the Republic Ali Osman Taha, to the convention, to instruct SAF to leave Abyei by going north and only allow those in Joint Integrated Units to remain in Abyei town.

The BBC is also reporting that SPLM and NCP officials met late Thursday in Juba and agreed to turn over control of Abyei to JIU.


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