A Personal Perspective on the Ngok-Twic Conflict in Abyei

Ever since the border conflict in Abyei between groups of Twic Mayardit and the Ngok Dinka of Abyei in the border town of Aneet broke out on February 10, 2022, there has been a flurry of reactions on both sides of the conflict, crisscrossing both at home and abroad. In this heated climate, in which emotions on both sides run high, truth becomes the primary victim. Under these circumstances, I wanted to refrain from making any public statement, in case what I say is misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued on both sides and risks adding fuel to the fire. In the end, I decided that silence in such a crisis is also untenable. I have been highly moved by some of the messages to which I feel irresistibly driven to respond. The most moving was a message from a child whose age I could not tell from his appearance, but who could not be older than ten years of age. He spoke very powerfully in Arabic and identified himself as the son of a Twic father and a Ngok mother to make the point that the two communities are closely interconnected and are indeed one people. The second message, by the Ngok Dinka cartoonist, Adija, presents the Ngok Dinka being pierced by the Arab with a knife and stabbed with a spear in the back by a fellow Dinka/South Sudanese. While I have had access to the accounts of the Ngok about the Twic attack building up with letters by the Twic Commissioner and Twic politicians in Juba, and culminating in the armed assault on February 10, and the defensive reaction of the Ngok to the situation, there are also reports of gruesome acts committed by the Ngok whom the Twic allege initiated the hostilities. These include allegations of beatings, the burning of Twic huts, and of course, killings, which the Ngok categorically deny. The third message about the situation is the perspective of the Sudd Institute in its Weekly Review of February 15 titled ‘Ngok-Twic Border Conflict: A Manifestation of Botched Socioeconomic Development in South Sudan’, which raises the issues involved in the Ngok-Twic border conflict as more widespread in the country and embodies national dimensions of poverty, lack of services, development, and related employment opportunities.