After 3 days of fighting, Abyei on the brink

Asmaa El-Husseini in Sudan, Tuesday 11 Jan 2011

After three days of ongoing fighting, Abyei remains in a state of relative calm, but could this be the silence that precedes the storm

Southern Sudan Referendum
A Southern Sudanese woman reads a newspaper at a polling centre during the second day of the referendum, in the city of Um Durman. Southern Sudan's military spokesman says 20 policemen in the disputed north-south region of Abyei have been killed and 30 more wounded. (AP)

The situation in the oil-rich disputed region of Abyei could explode any minute, claimed the chairman of the Abyei Referendum Forum Chol Deng, recalling events in 2008 which left the city devastated.

Deng told Ahram Online that massacres could potentially sweep the city if government security forces were to enter the area, adding that the situation today was calmer after three days of continuous fighting.

He pointed out that the Sudan People's Liberation Movement does not want to clash with Khartoum even though northern capital seems set on dragging the south into a conflict. Deng suggested that such a scenario would give the north pretext to point out instability in the south thereby questioning the referendum's legitimacy.

Deng added that Khartoum wants to impose a "facts on the ground" situation on Abyei after depriving the region of its own referendum on self-determination.

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