Boundary Dispute in Sudan’s Abyei Region

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issues a decision on the borders of Abyei, a region subject to violent contention in Sudan.

The PCA ordered the redrawing of the eastern and western boundaries, thus decreasing the size of Abyei. However, the implications for the northern boundary were not immediately clear. The size of Abyei is crucial to the political dispute, as its residents will be able to vote in a referendum on whether to become part of northern or southern Sudan, and are expected to merge with the south.

The redrawn borders give control of the richest oil fields, such as the Heglig oil field, to the north, while giving at least one oil field to the south and reaffirming the town of Abyei as the heartland of the Ngok Dinka. Most of the Messiria are outside of the redrawn borders, making it far more likely that the region will vote to join the south. Announcements by both the SPLM and Government of Sudan that they would accept the ruling were hailed by the United States, European Union, and the United Nations.

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