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Analysis: Sudan's Interlocking Crises

Council on Foreign Relations

June 2, 2008
Author: Stephanie Hanson

Sudanese government troops and southern Sudanese forces have led a tense coexistence for months in the oil-rich area of Abyei, which straddles Sudan's north and south. Accounts of what ignited the recent fighting (Economist) between the two groups differ, but no one disputes the end result: a town destroyed (WashPost), roughly one hundred thousand people displaced, and the probability of civil war on the rise with each passing day. Abyei exemplifies the most contentious elements of a 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan. Analysts say the town's future is critical to the viability of that agreement, and by extension, prospects for a resolution to the crisis in Darfur.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a decades-long civil war between north and south Sudan includes a separate protocol for Abyei. Both sides claim the area, which grossed about $670 million in oil revenues in 2006. A portion of the area's oil revenue is supposed to go directly to residents of Abyei, but there were concerns at the time of the agreement about how the money was being shared. The Abyei protocol gives the area a special administrative status, delineates a process to determine its boundaries, and calls for a referendum in 2011 to determine if the area will be part of the north or the south. That referendum is scheduled to coincide with a referendum on whether south Sudan will secede from the north. Experts say Sudan's ruling National Congress Party seeks to avoid secession at all costs, but it is also trying to arrange the north-south border so that it retains as many oilfields as possible in the north.

The turmoil in Abyei comes at a time of shifting U.S. policy toward Sudan.


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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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