Risk of Conflict in the Three Areas

I have a new summary up of the risk of conflict in the Three Areas. Read it here.

Armed Groups and the Risk of Conflict in the Three Areas


The Three Areas, consisting of Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, located along Sudan's volatile North-South border, bore the brunt of decades of armed conflict that ended in January 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). In the CPA period, however, the terms of the peace agreement covering the areas were only partially implemented. There are now multiple internal and North-South crises that threaten to spark widespread violence in the Three Areas.
In Abyei, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has steadfastly blocked CPA implementation in Abyei, first by refusing to accept the CPA-mandated directive to demarcate the territory, then by rejecting the findings of the 2009 boundary ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. A long-standing political impasse led to both sides building up their forces in and around the territory until SAF took advantage of an altercation with the SPLA to mount a full-scale aerial and ground invasion of Abyei. As of 3 June 2011, SAF and Missiriya militias occupy Abyei. The CPA-mandated Abyei referendum, to decide whether to join South Sudan or remain in the North, is unlikely to come to pass. Click here for a summary of this situation in Abyei and here for a more detailed report.
The situation is equally serious in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Neither state is to have a referendum. Instead, the CPA Protocol on the Resolution of the Conflict in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States provides only for ill-defined 'Popular Consultations' to identify 'shortcomings' in the CPA and attempt to negotiate amendments with Khartoum.
After a 12-month delay, in January 2011 the popular consultation took place in Blue Nile amid strong calls for the area to be given autonomy. The data from the consultation is still being analysed, and its publication in the coming months will create a moment of great tension for the state, as the NCP has been markedly hostile to calls for autonomy. Click here for more on the situation in Blue Nile.
In South Kordofan, the popular consultation has still not gone ahead, due to delayed gubernatorial and legislative elections, which finally occurred in May 2011. Ahmed Haroun, the NCP candidate, under indictment by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, was elected governor under highly dubious circumstances. The SPLM refuses to recognize the results, and claims the vote was rigged.
Since the election, the situation in South Kordofan has deteriorated markedly. On 23 May, SAF gave the SPLA a deadline of the 1 June to withdraw all their forces from the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Both areas are heavily militarized. In 2008, the Small Arms Survey documented the militarization of the Nuba region (here in Arabic), including the arming of Arab tribes. In the run-up to the SAF deadline, international observers report that SAF are mobilizing in South Kordofan, with Popular Defence Forces massing in Kadugli and Dilling, and heavy artillery moving towards SPLA positions from el Obeid.


Updated 3 June 2011