Last week, the Ngok Dinka community of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum. Over 99 percent of Ngok Dinka voted in an expression of collective will to transfer Abyei from Sudan’s sovereignty to South Sudan. Read More »
I am currently in Kou Kou Angarana, Chad which is less than 30 miles from the Chad-Sudan border. I’ve been in this area for almost two weeks visiting Djabal and Goz Amer refugee camps for the Enough Project’s Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, or DDT and have just a few days remaining in my trip. Read More »
On October 31, 2013, residents of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum to join South Sudan. This Enough Project report contextualizes the Ngok Dinka community's vote to join South Sudan and calls for the U.S. and the African Union to take immediate action to help determine Abyei’s final status.
Enough Project Urges US and African Union to Act on Abyei
Frustrated residents of the contested Abyei region that lies between Sudan and South Sudan announced the results of a historic unilateral referendum on Thursday. A new Enough Project reportcontextualizes the Ngok Dinka community's vote to join South Sudan and calls for the U.S. and the African Union to take immediate action to help determine Abyei’s final status.
The fate of Abyei is one of the most important issues left unresolved since South Sudan became an independent state in 2011. The region is home to the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, nomadic Arab herders, who migrate across the Abyei region twice a year. The two groups have lived there together in mutual interdependence, but a long history of unfulfilled promises for self-determination and the politicization of Abyei’s final status has raised tensions. In 2008 and 2011, Sudanese army attacks left towns burned to the ground, and resulted in the displacement of 120,000 people.
The report,"What Happens to a Dream Deferred" calls on the African Union to carry out its intended visit to the region, report on key findings, outline a clear timeline for a credible and internationally-sanctioned vote as called for in the African Union’s proposal, and hold Sudan to its existing wealth-sharing promises for Abyei.
Akshaya Kumar, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst, and co-author of the report, says, "The people of Abyei's dreams have been deferred for too long. Unless the African Union makes it clear that it is willing to stand behind President Mbeki's proposal, violence could once again seize the region."
Over 99 percent of the Ngok Dinka who voted on the unilateral ballot expressed a desire to transfer the Abyei territory from Sudan’s sovereignty to South Sudanese control.The Misseriya tribe has now vowed to hold their own referendum to voice their desire to stay with Sudan.
Timothy May, Enough Project Field Researcher, and co-author of the report, says "The Sudanese government already owes both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya 2% of the region's oil revenues since 2005. While they might not agree on the area's final status, both groups can work together to push Khartoum to turn over those funds, which could help develop their communities."
Neither Sudan nor South Sudan recognize the validity of the vote. The report authors explain that the Ngok Dinka’s unsanctioned vote is an expression of collective will and should be seen as a precursor to an internationally-recognized referendum for the disputed area.
John Prendergast, Enough Project Co-Founder, explains, "Abyei's peace can be secured only by honoring the multiple past agreements allowing its residents to vote on their future. The UN peacekeeping mission led by Ethiopia acts as a deterrent to armed conflict, but they cannot stay forever. The international community must use this moment to support a lasting resolution."
Last year, I met Chelsea Strelser when I attended my first meeting for William & Mary’s STAND chapter. Fresh off a summer internship with the Enough Project, I was excited to begin combating mass atrocities and genocide across the globe. Read More »
A new Enough Project field report analyzes the strength levels of two key rebel groups in eastern Congo and recommends political and security strategies for U.N. and U.S. leaders to pursue with the Congolese and Rwandan governments as part of a comprehensive peace process. Read More »
The Atma Foundation, a partner organization of the Enough Project, has launched a new initiative to build relationships and connections among American and Congolese women called Atma Letters. Read More »
Report: Rwanda's Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace
WASHINGTON -- Conflict resolution efforts to end the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will be unsuccessful if Rwanda's security, economic, and political interests that play central roles in the war are not addressed within the peace process, argues a new Enough Project report released today. Contentious relations between Congo and its neighbors have been a critical factor in making Congo the deadliest war in the world over the past 19 years. The report, “Rwanda's Stake in Congo: Understanding Interests to Achieve Peace” focuses on the Congo-Rwanda relationship and argues that U.N. and U.S. envoys to the region, Mary Robinson and Russ Feingold, should use a combination of incentives and pressures to address these interests.
“Rwanda and Congo are elephants in each other's living rooms," says Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast. “Until that relationship is addressed, and the interests that underlie it, there will be blood in eastern Congo."
"The key to unlocking peace is to expand the economic pie for Congo, Rwanda, and the region by bringing in a much more robust private sector that practices responsible investment in conflict-free minerals. Right now, the fighting is over surface-level mines, but the fact is that there are billions of dollars worth of mining deposits in the ground that lie undeveloped. If the U.N. and U.S. envoys build the right incentives for cooperation in the peace process, this investment will benefit all parties. Some will benefit from financial services, others will benefit from mining revenues, and others will benefit from new roads and infrastructure. Rwanda, Congo, and the region will then be financially invested in peace instead of war.”
The aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spilled into Congo in the mid-1990s, exacerbating preexisting intercommunal tensions and conflict. These tensions, coupled with the Congolese government’s deep corruption and bad governance created conditions in which the Congolese army and a host of militias have operated with impunity and destabilized eastern Congo. Additionally, Rwanda’s direct intervention in Congo at times and its periodic support for armed groups in eastern Congo have been central drivers of continuing conflict, states the report.
Rwanda’s core concerns include what it believes to be an existential security threat posed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, the Hutu extremist armed group based in eastern Congo, which has attacked Rwanda four times over the past year. Furthermore, Rwanda has economic interests in Congo in natural resources, land, and cross-border trade. Some of its interests have led to illicit activities, while it has pursued other interests through legitimate means. Rwanda has a domestic minerals sector but is also a transit point for Congolese minerals. Rwanda’s economy is reliant on the minerals trade because of the country’s significant trade deficit, and minerals are critical in filling this gap, as they are the country’s second-highest generator of foreign exchange. Illustratively, Rwanda's tantalum exports increased by 112 percent in the first six months of 2013 over the same period in 2012. The protection of Tutsi populations in Congo’s eastern provinces and the return of over 50,000 Congolese refugees to Congo are also core interests as stated by Rwanda.
To address these core interests, the report offers recommendations to the U.N. and U.S. envoys to build on the "11+4" Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework signed in February 2013. Specifically, the envoys should work to incentivize both countries to create transparent, legitimate regional economic cooperation and to work to remove the security threats to regional governments, including the FDLR, the M23, and other armed groups. The report also emphasizes that verified state support from any government in the region to any armed group should result in targeted sanctions or other escalating repercussions. Furthermore, it recommends that the U.S. and U.N. envoys support increased efforts at accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, both through the International Criminal Court and domestic processes.
While previous international peace initiatives have largely circumvented Rwanda’s role in the continuing conflict, this report emphasizes that any solution must address Rwandan economic and security concerns and push for Congo’s institutional reforms in order to be successful. The political will for peace and cooperation will develop only when these two states begin to invest financially in regional economic integration and work together on certain security issues while critical institutional reforms take place in Congo. Combining a conflict-free mining sector and improved infrastructure in Congo with Rwanda’s attractiveness for potential investments could initiate a process of transformation, argues the report.