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South Sudan Troops Deployed to Abyei Area

FILE - A map of the Abyei Area between South Sudan and Sudan.
FILE - A map of the Abyei Area between South Sudan and Sudan.

South Sudan army forces have been deployed to end fighting between communities from the disputed Abyei Area and Warrap State’s Twic County.

South Sudan People’s Defense Force spokesperson Major General Lul Ruai Koang told South Sudan in Focus the soldiers received orders to end ongoing violence in an area where officials have said more than 25 people were killed after armed young men recently attacked the Abyei area.

"They went to put a full stop to clashes that have been going on between the Ngok Dinka and their neighbors from Twic County of Warrap State. They will be there as long as they are required and they have been given full mandate to stop any illegal activities from happening," Koang said.

Abyei Special Administrative Area spokesman Ajak Deng Miyan confirmed army troops began arriving in the contested area over the weekend.

"The deployment has started but they are now being brought in small numbers because they are using a small airplane. They are assembled now in Agok and they will [go] to Majak Kon and we are welcoming this actually," Miyan told South Sudan in Focus, adding "I think they will be deployed outside 'the box' in the border so that they will prevent the attacks.”

The deployment of government forces to Abyei where fighting has raged for several months is a good step, said Jok Madut Jok, professor of anthropology at Syracuse University in New York.

"However, its success depends on how the government intends to use this force. If it is intended to simply silence the guns to give a chance for an investigation into the causes and drivers of the conflict, the government has to keep in mind that this force is just one step in what is bound to be a long journey to peace and reconciliation," Jok told South Sudan in Focus.

Past troop deployments have proven disastrous said Jok, adding the Abyei-Twic conflict should be addressed in a comprehensive way to achieve lasting peace.

"Extreme care must be exercised [in] its structure, in its command and in the clarity of its mission. In the past, such missions have ended up victimizing the people they were deployed to protect. That must be avoided at all cots this time around because too much is at stake for South Sudan. This conflict is an area that is vital for the national security of South Sudan," Jok told VOA.

Jok, who also founded the independent think tank The Sudd Institute, said South Sudan’s efforts to regain control of Abyei could be "a delicate project."

"This is not just one of those tribal conflicts in the interior of South Sudan; this is an area that the government must pay full attention to and be very tactical and be very diligent in the mission of the force that we are now told is going to be deployed," said Jok.

There have been several deadly attacks this year in the Abyei region. In May, the South Sudan People’s Defense Force established a buffer zone to end communal fighting between communities in Warrap State and the Abyei Administrative Area.

President Salva Kiir formed a panel headed by Service Cluster Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi to investigate the root causes of conflict between the Ngok Dinka and the people of Twic County.

The committee’s secretary, Dhieu Mathok, said four government officials from Abyei and Warrap State were implicated for allegedly fueling the border conflict between the two communities. No arrests were reported since that time.