Some Abyei residents, including Achai Anel Kuol, say many people are left with nothing to eat given sharp price rises for basic goods. “Citizens in Abyei are suffering,” she says. “If we eat today in the morning we will not be able to eat again in the evening.”
I think by July or August there will be no people staying in Abyei.
Kuol fears they will have to leave unless the situation improves soon. “We can have a meal per day. I think by July or August there will be no people staying in Abyei. Many have fled the area because there is no food,” she says.
Resident Biar Manut says there is no motivation for people to stay in Abyei: “The situation is bad, so bad. You see people are going back to the north because of a lack of food. There is food insecurity and there isn’t any kind of settlement here. That is why people are rushing to the north.”
Manut adds he wouldn’t leave, despite the challenges. He has already planted crops including sorghum and hopes to have sufficient food to feed his family after the harvest season in about two months’ time.
Achol Deng, another Abyei resident, says she too has planted crops and is waiting for the harvest, but adds that if she moves to Sudan, it will be for better services. “There are some diseases that cannot be treated here in Abyei. That is why people here decide to go to seek healthcare services in Sudan.”
These stories are well known to IOM officials who say at least 52,000 people have uprooted to Sudan since the beginning of 2016, leaving Abyei and other border regions. Karl Baker, IOM’s Transition and Recovery Programme Manager in South Sudan, says the majority of those fleeing Abyei are heading to Sudan’s East Darfur State.
Baker says an estimated 1,000 families left Abyei in the past month alone: “People are moving through but for different reasons – from education to health care to even visiting families.” He says there are those from Northern Bahr el-Ghazal who have been moving to the souther part of Sudan, like South Darfur. However, those are different from the ones who come through Abyei, he adds.
People want to come back together and want peace for Abyei.
Baker also attributes the increased movement to relative peace in Abyei. “We have also seen good progress on the ground between the Misseriya and the Dinka having good discussions and making sure that they are living in a peaceful way. I think there is a very good grassroots level movement going on where people want to come back together and want peace for Abyei.”
Residents of the disputed region have been without administrative structures since 2011 after South Sudan separated from Sudan. Since then, South Sudan has claimed Abyei as part of its territory. The Sudan Government attacked the area in May 2011 - prompting the United Nations Security Council to deploy a peacekeeping mission to the area.