Opinion | Twic-Abyei violence: Who could be blamed?

The recent violence between Twic County and the Abyei Special Administration could be blamed on the policy deployed by the Abyei Special Administrator, Dr. Chol Deng Alak, and on Abyei politicians in general.

The recent violence between Twic County and the Abyei Special Administration could be blamed on the policy deployed by the Abyei Special Administrator, Dr. Chol Deng Alak, and on Abyei politicians in general.

The deployment of war policies by Dr. Chol against Twic County, as well as his encouragement of Abyei Youth forces, Titbaai, to attack South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (the SSPDF), is controversial because it goes against the peaceful settlement of the conflict that he promised when he was appointed as a Chief Administrator. 

When Dr. Chol Deng Alak was appointed the Abyei Special Administrator, he called for a peaceful settlement with Twic County. This caused many people to think he would be different from General Kuol Diem, who started the war with Twic County.

Many people from the Twic community, believing him to be a career diplomat, took him for real and thought he would work to bring a peaceful solution between Ngok Dinka of Abyei and Twic County.

Unfortunately, General Chol Deng gradually began to follow in the footsteps of General Kuol Deim, the architect of the war between Twic and Ngok. His deviation from pursuing a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Twic and Ngok could have resulted from the criticism he had received from Abyei’s politicians in general.

The architects of the so-called “Abyei Box” created a war between the two communities with their fictitious map. These politicians, including General Kuol Deim, a former Abyei Special Administrator, do not welcome a peaceful settlement of Ngok and Twic’s conflict without achieving their planned goal of land theft from Twic County.

Before the recommence of the current crisis in Abyei and Twic County, a voicemail recorded by South Sudan intelligence revealed General Kuol Deim’s criticism of Dr. Chol Deng Alak.

In the recorded voice message, General Kuol Deim disparaged Dr. Chol Deng Alak’s leadership by referring to him as an incompetent leader. In other words, Dr. Chol did not strongly follow Abyei politicians’ planned policy of claiming Twic’s lands annexed to the so-called “Abyei Box”.

With that criticism, and after a few months in office, General Chol allowed Abyei youth and its ally Nuer militias and Army from the Unity State to begin attacking Twic villages regularly.

 Then, by September 2023, the Abyei Administration fighting forces changed tactics: Titbaai Militia and their ally forces from the Unity State started attacking the SSPDF barracks and killing government of South Sudan soldiers in various military locations, such as Majakkool, Mayen Jiech, Bombil, Akur, Aneet, etc.

However, the government of South Sudan and the SSPDF remained silent about the killing of its soldiers by the Titbaai militia, and Dr. Chol Deng Alak’s adoption of a policy of aggression with Twic County policy.

On November 9th, 2023, the Abyei Special Administrator appointed General Ayuel Kiir, Mayot Kuindik, and Duper Yak to his Abyei administration, which was a clear declaration of fighting with Twic County.

General Ayuel Kiir and Mayot Kuindik were responsible for igniting communal fighting between Ngok and Twic County on February 9th, 2022. Mayot and Ayuel conducted a survey of the Aneet areas, which resulted in fighting in 2022, which continues to the present day. Ayuel Kiir’s involvement in the conflict between Ngok and Twic County led to his arrest and detention in Juba. He was later released with no accountability.

Yet, Dr. Chol Deng Alak appointed General Ayuel Kiir as a commissioner of Alal County in his Abyei Special Administration, on November 9, 2023, despite his involvement in the conflict. The appointment was a plan to continue the war he (Ayuel Kiir) started with Twic County; it was a provocation to Twic County in nature.

After Gen. Ayuel’s appointed commissioner of Alal County, the war campaign against Twic’s villages south of Kiir River and the SSPDF deployed in the buffer zones began again. The Abyei Youth Force renewed their call to occupy villages such as Athoony, Malual Aleu, Ayuok, Aneet, Akur, and Majangkool to occupy them as the Abyei administration territories.

Before coming to Aneet to set up his administration in Aneet, the Abyei Administration launched a series of attacks on Twic villages in the vicinity of Aneet. With this intention, the Abyei militia known as Titbaai started attacking the SSPDF barracks deployed in the buffer zones. Hence, on November 13, 2023, 32 military officers and their families were killed in Ayuok military garrison.

In addition, General Ayuel Kiir and Mayot Kuindik immediately organized the Abyei youth and came with them to the deserted town of Aneet to clean it up for resettlement and establishment of an administration in the area.

This was a move against the directives and decree from the President of South Sudan that stipulated the citizens of both Abyei and Twic County must leave the Aneet area until the conflict between the two communities is resolved. The directives from the President said that only the SSPDF forces were to live in the area to separate the two communities, but Ayuel Kiir ignored it and his plan resulted in the recent violence in Twic County and Abyei.

The question many people ask is why Dr. Chol Deng Alak, the Abyei Special Administrator, appointed General Ayuel Kiir and ignored the fact that Ayuel Kiir and Mayot were involved in the conflict between Ngok and Twic communities. Equally, why did the government of South Sudan allow Ayuel Kiir to be appointed as a commissioner in the Abyei Administration when the government security arrested and jailed him for his involvement in the Abyei-Twic conflict?

The appointment of Mr. Ayuel Kiir was a great blunder, and the government of South Sudan should revisit its decision and hold leaders who commit mistakes accountable.

From a point of view, the Abyei Administrator has given in to the pressure of Abyei’s politicians who crafted the so-called “Abyei Box” and the pressure of those who engineered the war between Twic and Ngok communities.

Dr. Chol wants to please those who subscribed to fighting with the Twic Community in quest of stealing land from Twic’s territory. The Abyei and Twic communities lived peacefully from their inception and encouraging fighting between once-friendly neighbor communities saved none of them dearly.

It is a commonly held belief that those who “live by the sword will perish by the sword”. It is time for both the Twic and Ngok communities to realize that war serves no one better than living in a peaceful coexistence.

The war that started nearly two years ago has claimed the lives of innocent people and damaged properties, and relationships on both sides.  The war has understandably created animosity and hatred between Ngok and Twic communities. It will take time, resources, and leadership of good objectives to bring peace and heal the wounds.

However, Twic and Ngok, as people, should know they will always live as neighbors, and they have done that for centuries. Fighting between them or encouraging hostility between two communities will spare none of the community from blame or spare any of the community from the war consequences sustained in fighting one another.

It is time to embrace a peaceful solution to this conflict.

Morris Kuol Yoll is a South Sudanese Canadian who lives in Alberta, Canada. He could be reached at myoll2002@yahoo.com

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.