Crisis in Abyei- HART Briefing

27 April 2022

The people of Abyei face an urgent humanitarian crisis due to armed conflict and devastating floods. There are at least three urgent needs:

1. Emergency food assistance, shelter and increased protection must be provided to local people in areas most affected by the recent violence and floods.

2. Perpetrators of atrocities must be held to account. Prosecution and punishment break the cycle of crime and impunity.

3. The international community, including the UK, must renew its engagement on the final status of Abyei. It cannot be left to the Governments of the Sudan and South Sudan to resolve.


• The disputed region of Abyei lies on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. It is claimed by two communities: nomadic Misseriya (from the north) and pastoral Ngok Dinka (from the south).

• Tensions are high between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka, with frequent incidents of violence. Deadly attacks have also occurred between Twic Dinka and Ngok Dinka communities.

• Heavy rain and floods have damaged villages and farmland and forced people to flee their homes. An estimated 240,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Recent attacks

• Violence has escalated since February 2022, particularly in the southern part of Abyei. HART continues to receive numerous eye-witness reports of Ngok Dinka villages being attacked by Misseriya, Twic Dinka or other armed groups.

• In many instances, the attackers arrive on motorbikes, armed with assault rifles and RPG-7s. They kill villagers, abduct children, burn Tukuls (homes) and destroy local churches, markets and clinics.

• Following the attacks, survivors have received threatening messages from the phones of those killed saying the “army will attack again”.

HART’s local partner in the region sent us this photo from an attack on 13 April 2022, citing ‘barbaric attacks’ on four villages close to Abyei town

As recently as 13 April 2022, we were informed by our local partner in the region, Bishop Michael Deng Bol, that “Abyei is still bleeding” following targeted attacks on four villages close to Abyei town. We received graphic photos of victims.

1. Leu village attacked at 06:30: five killed; six injured and 1,500 cattle stolen.

2. Amiet market attacked at 13:00: at least 68 killed and 45 injured.

3. Noong village attacked at the same time: seven killed, including a mother and her child. We were told the attackers “burnt down the whole village”.

4. Kolom village: four killed. (The people of Kolom have suffered terribly in recent years. HART visited the village in January 2020 following a massacre in which 32 people were killed and 15 children were abducted.)

Infrastructure and security

• There is no Government in Abyei. Nor is there a functional criminal justice system. The region’s infrastructure and key services are under-developed, including in key areas such as healthcare and education.

• The region is monitored by a United Nations peacekeeping mission, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), although it struggles to implement its mandate in full due to restrictions of freedom of movement, including on vital border monitoring activities.

Border disputes

• Abyei’s border remains ill-defined. In 2013, the Dinka ethnic group organised an unofficial and so-far unrecognised referendum, in which 99.9 per cent of voters said they wanted to join South Sudan. The process was boycotted by Misseriya groups. Neither the Government of Sudan or South Sudan accepted
the result.

• An official referendum has not taken place because of ongoing disputes over who has the right to vote. Abyei’s lack of recognition continues to cause severe problems for the local people, including a lack of access by major aid organisations.

Material resources

• The Diffra oilfield is located in the region’s north. Abyei is also home to significant livestock populations, with plentiful pasture and water sources.

• South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, recently agreed to cooperate along the border, starting with the development of ‘unitised’ oil fields, including in Abyei. However, it is not clear what ‘unitisation’ entails. Many are concerned that it will focus on access to resources, as opposed to the protection and care of vulnerable people or the

Local partners

Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) has been active in Abyei since 2019. Our local partner, the Diocese of Abyei, is deeply committed to providing emergency relief, trauma counselling, education, agricultural assistance and healthcare to members of the local community.

We work directly with the regional Bishop, Rt Revd Michael Deng Bol, to support educational and emergency relief projects, including girls’ toilet reconstruction at Agok school and humanitarian assistance for massacre survivors, orphans and people displaced by conflict or flooding.

HART’s Visit Report of the massacre at Kolom in Abyei (January 2020):


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