New essay on Abyei

I have an essay out with Small Arms Survey on the situation in Abyei, which you can read here. As a taster:

The current situation is eminently productive for the GoS. The deferral of a political resolution to Abyei’s future allows it continue to reap the benefits of the oil revenue from Difra, which it is supposed to share with the Abyei area, while also placating the Missiriya, who graze unopposed in northern Abyei, without the consent of the Ngok Dinka. The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) plays a role in GoS’ current strategy. In order to minimize tensions between the two communities, the peacekeepers have created a security cordon around the centre of Abyei, in order to protect the area in which the majority of the Ngok Dinka live, and allow the Missiriya pastoralists, who annually migrate to the north of Abyei during the dry season, to graze their herds without encroaching on Ngok Dinka agricultural land. The creation of this cordon has had several unintended consequences. Whereas previously the Missiriya would negotiate with the Ngok Dinka over the routes they took through Abyei, the northern pastoralists now graze freely in the north of the territory. This undermines relations between the two communities; annual grazing meetings used to be the time when debts for the thefts and killings of the previous year were addressed, and migratory routes agreed as part of a complex calculus of alliances, kinship, and shifting ecological conditions. For many Ngok Dinka, the Missiriya now graze at will, with UNISFA effectively functioning as their bodyguards.

The conflict in Unity state, South Sudan

The production site at Tor, Unity state, South Sudan--abandoned since an SPLA-IO attack last December, the empty offices are littered with the carbonized remnants of vacation requests and invoices for fuel.

I have a new piece out with Small Arms Survey, based on field research over the last two months, on the conflict in Unity state, South Sudan. You can read it here.

I also have another new piece, also out with Small Arms Survey, on the situation in Abyei, Sudan/South Sudan.

Unclear Lines: State and Non-State Actors in Abyei

Coming soon to a bookshop--or more realistically a university library--near you, and containing an essay by yours truly. I wrote chapter three, 'Unclear Lines: State and Non-State Actors in Abyei.'

Here is the concluding paragraph:

"In Abyei, border talk became a frame in which claims about the sovereignty and area of the territory were made visible. None of the actors, however, actually inhabited the frame. The Misseriya used the ABC and PCA to make a claim to Abyei that attempted to secure for themselves what are actually secondary rights to the territory; the NCP used border talk as a mask, to perpetuate a permanent precarity that allowed them to extract as much as they could from the territory. This is not to say, of course, that there are no rebound effects: as the Misseriya took up the maximal language of the state, they found their secondary claims (and the possibility of coexistence with the Ngok Dinka) eroded; by taking up the language of the state, they found their practical possibilities for action reduced to a binary between absolute ownership and absolute dispossession. The Sudanese state, on the other hand, continues to not require the demarcation of its own borders, and instead uses the discourse of state power as part of an apparatus that also sets up a structure of illegality: actors that the state can use, while disavowing their actions. Nomads acting like states. States acting like nomads."

It should be out in December 2013. You can order your copy here


New Onsite Essay: Under the soil, the people

In June 2012, I saw resplendent herds of cattle along the Sudan-South Sudan border. We toiled together along muddy roads as cloudbursts announced the definitive end of the dry season. The rain seemed to erupt from the very air around me, as if it had grown tired of its liquid burden. It was difficult to see more than five metres ahead.

What I could see were those cows. In Pariang County, on the southern side of the border, one particularly proud herder drove his cows ahead of him, as we slipped and stumbled in the mud. The small brown cows of the Baggara Arabs, out of place in South Sudan and struggling in the rain, mixed with the large black bulls of the Mbororo, their skin slick and glistening, and jostled with the prized cattle of the Nuer, their horns decorated with tassels, and with whom the young cattle-guards stole whispered conversations, as if with illicit lovers...

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