Do not Move an Ancient Boundary Stone Set Up by Your Ancestors:
I ask both Twic and Ngok communities to consider this proverb and cherish ancient boundaries and relationships built by our ancestors
By: Morris Kuol Yoll
On February 10, 2022, communal fighting broke out in the town of Aneet between the Ngok of Abyei Administrative Area and Twic County members. The fighting was triggered by a land survey in the Aneet area ordered by Abyei Chief Administrator General Kuol Diem. At least, this is what people have been led to understand regarding the conflict between the Ngok Dinka and the Twic community. Many people, from both sides, have made their viewpoints known during this conflict. These two viewpoints were published by the Sudd Institute, the first by Dr. Francis Madiing Deng, himself a son of Abyei, and the second, an article of analysis, from the Sudd Institute. Both articles superficially discuss the details, while failing to cast light on the true origin of the conflict between the two communities.
Having made myself familiar with both viewpoints and hearing the claims of both Twic and the Ngok community members, I feel compelled to give my perspective in order to bring clarity to the history of the feud that resulted in a communal fight which has, in turn, created an alarming divide between once-friendly communities. With this understanding, it is important to ask the following: Where is Aneet located, and when did its location become an issue between the two communities? Also, when, and for what purpose, did Agok and Aneet respectively become an administrative centre for Abyei Region and a market?
Aneet is an area in Twic County located northeast of Twic County and to the southeast of Kiir River which separates the known physical boundary (Kiir River) between Twic and Abyei. Aneet is about 35 km away from the Kiir River and a midpoint of six sections of Kuac of Twic County.
Travelling from Abyei to Aneet, one crosses the bridge on Kiir River, which is a physical boundary between Twic County and Abyei, and travelling Eastward, one will come across Abathock, Gukpath, Muchboung, and finally, to Aneet. There are other small villages in the middle, but these are the main villages in between. Farther to the Southeast of Aneet is Mading-jok-thiang, which is divided into two parts, the first for Anganya and the other for Ator. Then, to the east of Aneet is Majak-Kol. Majak-Kol is the Ator section of Kuac. East of Majak-Kol is a checkpoint in Mabuny, and as well as other villages between Majak-Kol and Ajak Kuac. To specify, Majak-Kol is a military base for the South Sudan Defense Force (the SSDF), while Rumkoor is a military base for Abyei Brigade. All are South Sudan military bases within Twic County territory.
Aneet was a village and is now a small town in the Kuac Anganya section, Anyiel Boma, Twic County. Indeed, Aneet is the midpoint of the three sections of Kuac Anganya in Twic County, Warrap State, namely Anganya, Ator, and Ayuang. Therefore, natives of Aneet are from Chief Teeng Akoi’s Kuac, known as the (Kuac Anganya) section of Amiol Bol Chol under the current overall Twic County Paramount Chief, Garang Nyuol Bol. Aneet is known for the following areas: The airport in Agok, Wuntnhom, Maker-aneet, which is a market, and Joljok hospital.
It is worth mentioning that the Aneet area and its market gradually developed after a humanitarian relief-drop airstrip was established in the area. The Market brings people of the Twic, Abyei, Sudanese Arabs Merchants, the Unity State, and the Panriang Administration together. In addition, Aneet and its peripheral areas are arable agricultural land that is suitable for farming sorghum (dura) crops. As a result, farming activities around the area attract workers from all parts of South Sudan. After returnees of Abyei settled in the area, a hospital, as well as many other notable residences were erected in the area. Hence, the Town of Aneet enjoys the presence and residents of various people in South Sudan, which includes the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (the UNISFA) and Abyei Administration Headquarters in Agok.
Many South Sudanese know the town of Abyei to be the Capital of the Abyei region and thus an administrative center for the people of Abyei, known as Dinka Ngok. However, the Administrative Headquarters of Abyei was relocated to the Agok area in Twic County due to insecurity posed by raiders from the Misseriya Arabs militia, the Sudanese Army, and its Security. In fact, the SPLA/M-led Administration of Abyei could not operate inside Abyei Town under Sudan, as its military had taken control of Abyei town.
Indeed, the mounting threat in Abyei had displaced Abyei’s population to mostly neighboring Twic County. Thus, the displaced Abyei population and the Abyei Administration-occupied settlements that were allotted to the Abyei people by Twic County in the 90s and 2000. These settlements are situated south of the Kiir River from Athony, and Agok, which are legally Twic areas. The population of the Aneet settlement increased between 2000 and 2005, during which time the displaced people of Ngok started returning from northern Sudan in substantial numbers to Abyei, while the Sudanese military still occupied Abyei.
Up to 2011, the Sudanese Army kept its stronghold presence in Abyei town. As a result, there was mounting insecurity in Abyei for returnees, especially when peace discussions between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A. This later developed into a signed Comprehensive Peace Agreement (the CPA) in 2005, at which point Abyei’s status became a huge point of contention. Sensing that peace between southern Sudan and the north was on the horizon, the displaced people from southern Sudan, including those of Abyei in the north, began returning to Southern Sudan.
The security of these returnees settling in Abyei areas was of great concern, unlike that of other returnees from various regions of southern Sudan that had returned and joined their respective communities. As evidence of further insecurity in the Abyei area at the time, the Sudan Army later fought with locals inside Abyei town at a time when southern Sudan was anticipating its referendum for self-determination. Eventually, the Sudanese Army burned down the town of Abyei in June of 2010.
Therefore, it was this insecurity posed to returnees from Abyei by both the Misseriya tribes, the Sudanese Army, and its security that occupied Abyei town, at the time, which justified relocating Abyei Administration Headquarters to the safest areas across Kiir River in early 2000 by the Sudan People Liberation Movement /Army (SPLM/A) command.
So, with joint consultations from the SPLM/A command in the area and the Twic County Administration, it was decided that refugees from Abyei and Abyei Administration be relocated where the Operation Life Line Sudan (OLS) established by the United Nations (UN) would be able to give them services. Before that in 1998, the displaced people of Abyei, with Ajing Path as an administrator, the displacement camp was established in Panlit Amiol in Twic county under Twic County Administration governed by General James Yol Kuol Bol as a Commissioner.
Later, the SPLM/A command consulted with the commissioner of Twic County, General James Yol Kuol Bol, to find and allot an area in Twic County where the Abyei Administration would operate until a later date that would be best to relocate back to the Abyei Town. The idea was to move the displaced and scattered people of Abyei from Panlit Amiol to the allotted area where they would set up camp and receive humanitarian assistance in a designated place.
Subsequently, the commissioner of Twic County, General James Yol Kuol Bol, consulted with the Paramount Chief of Amiol, the current Paramount Chief of Twic County, Garang Nyuol, and the Chief of Kuac Anganya, late Deng Teeng Akoi, and asked them to permit the Abyei Administration and the displaced from Abyei to move from Panlit Amoil to Agok. With this understanding, the camp in Panlit Amoil was relocated to Agok by the Twic county Administration under the directives of the late General James Yol Kuol Bol, the commissioner of Twic County at the time. Hence, the administration of Abyei was established in Agok/Aneet with Cde. Ajing Path as a Commissioner of Abyei County.
To ease the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), a local airstrip in Agok was established, and soon after, the local market in Wutnhom, Maker-Aneet developed and grew with population.
The Abyei Administration was established in Agok. It came about when the SPLM/A command came to a cordial understanding, later made a formal agreement, between Commissioner of Twic County, James Yol Kuol, Abyei Administrator, Paramount Chief Garang Nyuol Bol, and Chief Deng Teeng Akoi, the chief of Aneet. Records of this arrangement can be found with Twic County Administration and the SPLM/A command in the area, as General Aleu Ayieny, the current Governor of Warrap State, mentioned in his address to the National Legislature Assembly on February 22nd, 2022, that followed the crisis of Aneet.
To many locals of Twic County whose areas were made settlements of Ngok Dinka, there was no dispute, as for years the people of Abyei and Twic have been integrated, enjoying a positive neighborly relationship. In addition, the physical boundary between Twic and various Ngok sections is a well-known Kiir River that separates the two communities. The SPLM/A was in command of the areas South of Kiir in recognition of the 1956 boundary established between the north and south of Sudan.
However, the majority in the Twic community was not aware of an underlying scheme to steal the land from them. Fear of the people of Abyei settling in Twic’s soil was hardly perceived. But unknown to many in Twic Community, as now seems to have been the case, was a sinister, covert decision made in the SPLM/A National Convention of 1994, as claimed by General Kuol Diem in his January 31st, 22 letters to the Governor of Warrap State, General Aleu Ayieny.
According to the Abyei Chief Administrator, General Kuol Deim’s letter, it is apparent that multiple areas south of the Kiir River, that are legally Twic areas, were given over to Abyei by the late Commander-In-Chief, Dr. John Garang DeMabior. Amongst these areas were Agok and Aneet.
Areas South of the Kiir River that rightfully belongs to Twic, were shown on the map of the New Sudan to be connected to Abyei territory. Awilgik, Athony, Agok, Aneet, Majak Deng Muon, Pagai Aruet, Mayom Chol Luk, etc. Treacherously, the strip of Twic land along the south of Kiir river, from Thon-Awiech Ayuel, far west of Twic County, to Kuac Madut Ring in the east of Twic has been carved out and affixed instead to Abyei. In short, these Twic areas appended to Abyei straddle south of Kiir River from Thon Awiech Ayuel, through Chabok, Adiang, Amiol, Kuac Anganya, and Kuac Madut Ring, far east of Twic county. The whole section of Kuac Madut Ring and Kuac Anganya of Deng Teeng Akoi has been made part of Abyei in a secret Map of the New Sudan.
Further, regions of Ruweng, including Helig (Pan-thou), Karsana, etc. were made parts of the Abyei region in the so-called “map of the New Sudan” by those who drew it up for reasons known only to the architects of the map without prior consultations. This decision was made in the SPLM/A 1994 National Convention or sometimes in the 90s by the SPLM/A. Many of the Twic Community knew it to have been settled when it came to the surface. Unfortunately, the motives behind the making of this unlawful map have been concealed by its creators.
As such, the land dispute finally resulted in a communal fight that was not a new issue per se. Strangely, it would surface that Aneet was one of the Twic County areas carved into Abyei in the 1994 National Convention according to Gen. Kuol Deim’s letter. It is also overwhelming to know that the “defunct New Sudan’s map” made in the 1994 SPLM/A Convention or afterward made its way to Haque and into the so-called “Abyei Box.”
This “new” nature of the land (Aneet) was repudiated and the resulting current conflict between Twic County and Abyei Administration dates back to the 1994 SPLM/A Convention in which, as Abyei’s current Chief Administrator, Kuol Diem, has claimed, Dr. John Garang DeMabior, the Commander-In-Chief of the SPLA/M made “Agok” to be one of Abyei’s counties as if Dr. John Garang had the authority to give away the land of one community to another community that he favorably loves.
The claim that “Agok” was made a County in the 1994 Convention by itself is erroneous. It was Abyei that was given a county status, and current counties of the Abyei special Administration were made afterward to elevate the Abyei region to the State level; otherwise, Abyei would have had more commissioners instead of one Commissioner, Ced. Ajing Path, when the Abyei Administration Headquarters was established in the Agok settlement.
Before I digress further, I caution my brothers from the Abyei Community, as well as the politicians that harbor the notion of stealing Twic land in the name of Dr. John Garang DeMabior, to consult Dr. John Garang’s view on the communal land. In the CPA, Dr. John Garang ensured in the document that “the land belongs to the community”. This contradicts what General Kuol Deim believes to be a right of the people of Abyei to falsely claim the land that is outside of the Abyei boundary by the 1956 boundary agreement with Sudan.
Yet, General Kuol Deim’s assertion raises questions: What do the 1994 Chukudum Convention and the so-called “Abyei Box” have in common, and who are the architects of the “Abyei Box?” The carved-out parts of Twic County into Abyei’s area made it into the Map of “The New Sudan” produced before or after 1994. This so-called Map of the “The New Sudan” conflicts with the specifications of the known Map of Sudan of January 1st, 1956, which demarcates provincial boundaries, indicating that Abyei belongs to Kordofan Province in northern Sudan.
It follows that by the late 90s, the Map of the New Sudan that etched parts of Twic County surfaced and thus came to the attention of the Twic Community within the SPLM/A. The Twic Community members in Nairobi, Kenya decried the idea that appended parts of Twic county to Abyei’s territory when Abyei’s status was politically unsettled between northern Sudan and southern Sudan. The idea generated protest from members of the Twic community and the map in question was then taken down from the SPLMTODAY.COM’s website where it was displayed to avoid further escalation of the conflict between the Abyei and the Twic community.
In essence, many members of the Twic community questioned the wisdom behind the carving-out of its areas to Abyei, particularly at a time when South Sudan and Sudan had not settled Abyei’s conflict politically. People of Twic fear that should Abyei decide to join Sudan, its legitimate areas, strategically inserted into the Abyei area, will automatically go to Abyei, or create a war between South Sudan and Sudan.
This argument should not be misconstrued as a rejection of Ngok Dinka by the Twic Community. Before the current conflict, many people in the Twic Community did not mind forming one community with the people of Abyei since the two communities enjoyed close neighborly relationships. The argument is that it is not politically safe to join territories with Abyei when its status is not politically settled. Merging parts of Twic county to Abyei when the issue of Abyei with Sudan is not resolved, was a dangerous idea at the time and is still an unwise proposition at its best.
To sum up, some records show Aneet to be part and parcel of Twic County. First, the 1956 physical boundary between Southern Kordofan and Bahr el-Gazal is clear evidence that cannot be denied or ignored by the Abyei Special Administration or politicians of Ngok Dinka. Secondly, there are administrative records that support the allotment of the Aneet area as a settlement for the displaced Abyei population in 2000. Thirdly, the amending of National boundaries by individuals of the Abyei Administration without legislature involvement or proper involvement of the Sudan and South Sudan governments is illegal which puts the proposal of an “Abyei Box” into question.
It is high time that the Abyei Special Administration, as well as the Abyei politicians behind this scheme, learn from the destruction to the community caused by the “Abyei Box” Map issue. Undoubtedly, the “Abyei Box” idea is the culprit behind the current Aneet crisis that has once again cost South Sudan greatly in terms of the instability created between Twic County and the Abyei Region. It has resulted in a communal fight in Aneet that has robbed the Twic Community of over Two Hundred (200) lives lost to senseless target killing inside Abyei Territory, not to mention the loss of properties on both sides. Not least, it has crippled the relationship between the Twic Community and the Ngok Dinka, which will require tremendous efforts and resources to rebuild the relationship, considering the magnitude of the atrocities committed and the hatred generated between the two communities. This same “Abyei Box” has resulted in the loss of Pan-thou and Karsana and the Mile 14 to Sudan. Eventually, the “Abyei Box ” will likely cause another war costing further loss of life between South Sudan and Sudan if not urgently investigated to avoid conflict between Twic and Ngok Community.
The proverb states, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” I, too, say this to both Twic and Ngok, that we cherish and honor the relationship, established by our ancestors, for the benefit of all communities.
Morris Kuol Yoll, is a son of the late General James Yol Kuol Bol, the First Commissioner of Twic County who allotted Agok and Aneet as a settlement for the Internally Displaced People of Abyei in 200. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-228-3290. Morris Yoll lives in Alberta, Canada but is a concerned citizen of South Sudan.