The Abyei Border
The Permanent Court of Arbitration is currently looking at determining the Ngok-Dinka chiefdom’s area in Abyei. One wonders if their decision will correspond with this analysis from 2004?
FROM: Land Adviser
TO: GOVERNOR DENG ALOR, BAHR AL GHAZAL
RE: The Perimeter Boundary of the Nine Ngok Chiefdoms
DATE: 18 October 2004
This memo reports on our visit to Ngok between 13-17 December, 2004. We met with the Commissioner and his staff (9 persons) and held a 1.5 day meeting with more than 30 representatives (mainly elders) from the nine sections and four administrative payams. We also visited the Kiir River and the southern boundary with Twic. We held a final wrap-up meeting with the Commissioner and staff to inform them of the discussion with the elders/representatives and other findings.
The objectives of the visit were –
ï‚§ To become directly informed as to the Abyei/Ngok tenure issue
ï‚§ To assist local representatives to conceptualise and describe the area of the nine Ngok chiefdoms, in preparation for the Abyei Boundary Commission, and to
ï‚§ identify assistance which could be provided by a USAID/USDA land sector assistance project to the contested areas under proposal.
Findings and suggestions follow.
1. There is a possibility that the western, eastern and southern perimeters of Abyei Area do not coincide with the administrative boundaries of respectively South Darfur, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile.
For example, administrative maps consistently mark Meram as on the western boundary of Ngok, but Ngok territory as described by elders begins some miles to the east of Meram. Maps also suggest that the area as described for the eastern limits of Ngok do not quite reach the administrative boundary of Southern Kordofan on the Panarou side/Upper Nile. Contrarily, a GPS reading taken on what was described as the southern boundary of Ngok with Twic in fact positions the Ngok territory as some miles south of the South Kordofan/Bahr el Ghazal boundary (i.e. extending into Bahr el Ghazal). The western, eastern, and southern boundaries are not the source of conflict. However, should it emerge that Ngok Territory does not quite reach the eastern and western limits of Southern Kordofan State, and should Ngok choose to be integrated with Bahr el Ghazal State as expected, the possibility of a rather awkward “˜map’ emerges, with northern States possessing two significant strips of land either side of Ngok. It is for this reason that this possibility is mentioned.
2. The (contested) northern boundary of the chiefdoms is well-known locally but not easily identifiable on the ground.
Clearly the area under contestation and for which the Abyei Boundary Commission is to be established to resolve relates specifically to the northern boundary between Misseriya (and Nuba) with the Ngok territory. Our meeting with the elders/representatives focused on getting them to describe the location of the boundary in as much detail as possible and to iron out inconsistencies among themselves. Inconsistencies were very few. However, they did find it difficult to describe the boundary area. This is due to the lack of notable landmarks in the area and to the fact that boundary is in reality a zone, the most stable feature of which is that is marks a transition from one ecotype to another. Broadly, the boundary is indicated by a transition from clay soils on the Ngok side to sandy or rocky soils on the Misseriya/Nuba side. The naturally occurs over some distance, the breadth of which could be “˜very wide’ according to some participants.
Table 1 summarises what was agreed among participants to be key markers along the northern boundary between the territory of the Ngok and Misseriya/Nuba. It will be noted that only one marker along the boundary is tangible, in the form of the baobab/tebaldi tree (“Dunydhuol”). This is located on the road between Abyei-Muglat/Babanusa. It is said to be around 65 miles north of Abyei town. There are also small lakes at two other points. The remainder are sites where settlements or cattle camps once existed (and where forefathers will have been buried).
TABLE 1: POINTS ALONG THE NORTHERN BOUNDARY OF NGOK/ABYEI AREA FROM WEST TO EAST
ABIOR SECTION AREA
X hours walk to the east of Merem/railway Originally a settlement before people were evicted by Misseriya/Murhaleen. This site could be on the old road north This site marks the boundary between Maluel and Ngok Dinka.
Generally the trees are sparser and shorter on the northern side of the boundary as on the southern Ngok side.
2 AKEI 2 days from Jegdi Originally a cattle camp. Marked by many Balanites sp.
3 MABEK Half day walk Originally a settlement area, then seasonal cattle camp. A stream marks this area.
4 KOLCHUM Full day walk from Mabek Place of the Chum tree (Japelberry).
Small lake marks Kolchum
A track used to mark this area going eastwards to Kochue, and this could possibly be found again. Participants accept the track as the boundary between themselves and Misseriya Gos land.
5 KOLCHUE 1 full day walk from Kolchum, 35 miles or 4 hours by car Stream of the tamarind tree (tamarinds found in this area). Stream acceptable to participants as marking the boundary between themselves and Misseriya although the stream does not run west-east.
6 DHUNDUOL 1.5 days walking or 26 hours from Kolchue Tebaldi tree. Located on road north from Abyei to Muglad. Used to be a main Abior Khor cattle camp.
Police Station placed by British, suggesting this point was fully recognised as a boundary area between the Misseriya and Ngok and between whom the Police were mandated to keep the peace. Evidence of this building should remain. The road north from Dhunyduol was considered to be in Misseriya land and the road south in Ngok and both groups respectively asked to maintain it, as typical of the period.
In 1977 85 Ngok were killed some distance south of Dhunyduol by Misseriya, as they were fleeing. Misseriya were stronger as had guns. Misseriya have since cut their section symbols on the trees in this area.
During the colonial period there was a road all the way from Dhunduol to Nyama and evidence of this could be found again.
BONGO SECTION AREA
1 day’s walk from Duyonduol Thur is Tau tree. Marks an old settlement. The area is open lowland (“˜Twic’) with few trees. Acacia Senegal and Balanites species.
2 days from Thur Meaning of Ruba = five piestas/shillings?
Lowland area, but swampy in wet season. Footpath used to exist from here to Nyama, also a road for vehicles during colonial times as above
Gir species – used for drum making, looks like mahogany
3 hours walking from Ruba
Meaning of Nyama – gills of fish, as area known for fish during rainy season. Heads cut off and left lying around, hence “˜Ruba’.Trading Post in old days. Marked end of colonial road eastwards and which is acceptable to elders as northern boundary of Ngok.
Also an old Police Station at Nyama but not constructed of bricks and remains may not be found.
Dug wells in this area in past. Colonial officers (Police? Agricultural Officers?) once grew rice in this area.
Rocky soils to the north of the boundary.
ALEI SECTION AREA
Tuba= the yeast or starter of a local brew. Used to be a settlement of around 40 households. Also a farming area of Ngok residents.
Many Acacia Senegal and Lukuk species on the Ngok side of the boundary.
Sandy soils on the northern boundary, clay soils on the south side.
11 RUB LUKOK
9 hours walk from Tuba Rub = Open ground, Lukuk = tree species.
This was also a one-time settlement area.
1 day walk from Rub Lukok Stream in this area, with fish. No roads. Border with Misseriya ends with Kuok.
ACHAL SECTION AREA
Large settlement, small lake, open low ground which extends to Kelak in Nuba Mountains territory Soils on northern side of boundary are black cotton soils. This marks the Nuba boundary with Ngok. Also Tau (lalob), Thaep, Lang (Sesivitis sp.) and Peth (acacia sp).
2 days walking from Anyak No traditional settlement here, only a traditional pasture Boundary with Panarou Dinka. Marks the “˜Ganjok’ triangle between Nuba, Ngok and Panarou peoples.
There is however a very important historical indicator as to where part of the boundary lies. The British established two Police Posts in Dunydhuol and Nyam (or Nyama). Neither building remains today although evidence of the brick building constructed in Dunydhuol is likely able to be found. The positioning of Police Posts at these points is significant: the British would have located Police Posts to keep the peace between Misseriya and Ngok. Moreover, there was once a track used by colonial vehicles running westwards from Dunydhuol to Nyam which could be usefully identified as the actual boundary between those points.