Experts from the United States Institute of Peace are closely following the developing situation in Sudan. Over the weekend, reports emerged that North Sudan forces took control of the disputed, oil-rich Abyei province in advance of South Sudan's succession.

For Immediate Release, May 23, 2011
Contact: Allison Sturma, 202-429-4725

(Washington) - Experts from the United States Institute of Peace are closely following the developing situation in Sudan. Over the weekend, reports emerged that North Sudan forces took control of the disputed, oil-rich Abyei province in advance of South Sudan's succession.

Jon Temin, director of USIP Sudan programs commented that:

"This action increases the chances of a return to north-south civil war; at a minimum, it means that the road to southern independence in July is likely to be very volatile. The key question now concerns how the south is going to respond to the north’s provocations, and whether they will choose a military response. This action also likely reflects the ascendance of hard-line elements within the northern leadership."

Jacki Wilson, USIP senior program officer, added:

"The recent military actions in Abyei are inconsistent with statements by both northern and southern politicians that neither side wants to return to war. These moves could be part of a long-established pattern of what I call "extreme brinksmanship," but it must be made clear that aggressive military action is not a negotiation tactic. Although the comprehensive peace agreement appears to be coming to closure as July approaches, we are also seeing the dawn of a new relationship between international neighbors. This relationship should be based on mutual respect and on international law if Sudanese and southern Sudanese are to see a peaceful future.

Linda Bishai, USIP senior program officer concluded:

"The occupation of Abyei drastically narrows the options for those hoping to bring about a peaceful negotiated settlement on border demarcation and other North/South issues. References to "enemy fighters" and "an act of war" indicate a worrying shift in rhetoric despite a long-standing pattern of brinksmanship in Sudanese politics. The responses of the parties and the International Community in the next few days will be critical in establishing whether this development leads to escalated violence or is dealt with in a collective and cooperative fashion. And once again the civilians of Abyei abandon their homes for an uncertain and vulnerable future."

USIP experts are available for additional comment:

Jon Temin, director of Sudan programs
           Office: 202-429-4726
           E-mail: jtemin@usip.org

Jackie Wilson, senior program officer
           Office: 202-429-3823
           E-mail: jwilson@usip.org

Linda Bishai, senior program officer
           Office: 202-429-4712
           E-mail: lbishai@usip.org

Additional Resources:

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The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) provides the analysis, training and tools that help to prevent, manage and end violent international conflicts, promote stability and professionalize the field of peacebuilding.

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