AFRICANGLOBE – A major leader of the Dinka tribe and an Ethiopian peacekeeper have been killed after a UN convoy was caught up in an Arab ambush in the disputed South Sudanese territory of Abyei, according to the UN.
Kual Deng Majok, the top Dinka leader in Abyei, was travelling with the convoy when he was killed by members of the Arab Misseriya tribe in a clash on Saturday that risked escalating new tensions in the area.
The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that two others were also seriously wounded in the Abyei border region, claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
Members from both groups were attending an Abyei oversight committee meeting.
She said that as the Sudanese delegation wrapped up their visit and headed back north, they were confronted by armed members of Misseriya tribe who wanted to forcibly take the members of the Dinka tribe.
Martin said that the UN peacekeepers refused and a five-hour tense standoff ended in a fire fight.
The Sudan Foreign Ministry has condemned the attack as an isolated incident.
The two Sudanese governments are keen to keep the relationship back on track but have had issues dealing with the tribal groups.
In March, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to resume cross-border oil flows and defuse tensions, which have plagued them since the South seceded in 2011 after an independence vote.
But they were unable to reach an agreement on the issue of Abyei, which both the Dinka of South Sudan and the Misseriya of Sudan call their home.
“The secretary-general urges the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and the … Dinka and Misseriya communities to remain calm and avoid any escalation of this unfortunate event,” the UN chief’s office said.
Abyei straddles the border between the neighbours, who fought one of Africa’s longest civil wars. It is prized for its fertile land and small oil reserves.
Like South Sudan, Abyei was meant to have an independence vote, agreed under a 2005 peace deal which ended the civil war between the north and south.
But both countries have been unable to agree which tribe members should participate.
Ethiopian peacekeepers have been running a temporary administration for Abyei since Sudan seized it in May 2011, following an attack on a convoy of UN peacekeepers and Sudanese soldiers which the UN blamed on southern forces.
Sudan later withdrew its forces under a UN peace plan.