Skip to main content
By Paulino Mamiir Chol - 18 Jan 2024

Opinion | Can the “Green Book” resolve the Ngok and Twic conflict?

After delving into Warrap State Governor Kuol Muor’s Green Book, a critical question arises: Can this document effectively address the persistent violence between Ngok and Twic Mayardit?

Regrettably, it seems unlikely that the Green Book, crafted by Governor Kuol Muor, will be a panacea for the ongoing conflict between Ngok and Twic Mayardit. The root cause of the violent clashes lies in an international border dispute, making it implausible for the Green Book to offer a comprehensive solution to this specific conflict.

However, the Green Book may hold potential for resolving internal and interstate conflicts within Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. Notable examples include the internal disputes among communities such as Wau, Apuk Giir, Aguok, Kuac, and Tonj. These issues often revolve around internal land disputes and cattle raiding. For instance, the interstate land disputes between the Wau and Apuk Giir communities, internal conflicts stemming from land and border disputes between the Aguok and Kuac communities in Gogrial West, and violent conflicts within the Greater Tonj Community triggered by the absence of internal border demarcation, dowry disputes, and cattle raiding.

Governor Kuol Muor’s proactive approach involves extending consultative meetings to both Twic Mayardit and Ngok. As outlined in the Green Book, these meetings included representatives from the Twic Community, elders, national members of Parliament, youth and women leaders, elders from Bahr El Ghazal region, and Governor Kuol Muor himself. The governor’s intent, as expressed in the Green Book, was to foster lasting peace between Ngok and Twic communities.

While the Warrap Governor’s initiative to engage with the Twic Mayardit community to understand the issues with Ngok is understandable, his direct involvement in finding a solution raises constitutional concerns. This intervention appears to contravene key provisions of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, and the Abyei Protocol of 2004.

As outlined in Article 1 (2)(b) of the 2011 Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms is specified, with its transfer from Bahr El Ghazal Province to Kordofan Province in 1905 defined by the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal Award of July 2009. The constitutional provision further states that if the resolution of the Abyei Area’s final status results in its inclusion in the Republic of South Sudan, the Ngok Dinka chiefdoms will be part of this territory.

Additionally, Article 97 (4) of the same constitution establishes the special administrative status of the Abyei Area under the Office of the President of the Republic of South Sudan until a final resolution on its status is reached.

Given these constitutional provisions, it raises questions about the authority of the Warrap Governor to mediate peace between Twic and Ngok, especially considering the international nature of the conflict rooted in a border dispute. The Abyei referendum did not lead to its incorporation into the Republic of South Sudan, and the results were not acknowledged by the concerned countries. Consequently, the governor’s attempt to broker peace in this context may be viewed as exceeding the scope of his constitutional authority.

The recent efforts by Warrap Governor Kuol Muor to mediate peace between Twic Mayardit and Ngok communities pose a significant challenge, considering the intricate constitutional landscape and the international nature of the conflict.

The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, coupled with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 and the Abyei Protocol of 2004, grants Abyei special administrative status under the Office of the President. The authority to bring about peace between these rival communities lies squarely with the South Sudanese and Sudanese presidents.

According to the CPA’s Chapter IV, residents of Abyei were to cast a separate ballot during the southern Sudan referendum, allowing them to choose between retaining special administrative status in the north or becoming part of Bhar El Ghazal. However, the unresolved status of Abyei, coupled with a border dispute between Ngok Dinka and Twic at Aneet, Agok, and Southern River Kiir, has fuelled the ongoing conflict.

Governor Kuol Muor’s proposed resolutions, outlined in consultative meetings, reflect the gravity of the situation. However, some suggestions may face inherent challenges. The creation of a buffer zone at Aneet and the Southern part of the Kiir River, the relocation of Abyei Administrative Units, and the deployment of security forces may not be sufficient, given the international border complexities.

Twic Mayardit members have added valuable input, suggesting the relocation of UNISFA from the South Kiir River to Abyei town. While this could mitigate tensions in certain areas, the heart of the issue lies in the international border, requiring decisions from the South Sudanese and Sudanese presidents.

Governor Kuol Muor’s endeavour to foster dialogue between Twic and Ngok communities is commendable, but the international nature of the border dispute necessitates the involvement of the respective governments. The appointment of individuals with historical knowledge to peace committees is a positive step, but the ultimate resolution requires higher-level interventions.

Efforts to provide security forces and logistics for deployment between Warrap State and the Abyei Administrative Area may be insufficient, as the core issue remains the international border dispute. Dispatching mobile courts to address criminal cases and compensate victims faces similar challenges, necessitating decisions from the two presidents.

In the recent consultative meetings, the Ngok Community highlighted eleven key issues that served as triggers for the conflict between Twic and Ngok. These issues encompassed land disputes, property destruction, violence against women and children, arbitrary arrests without trial, government hesitancy in resolving the conflict, discrimination of Abyei as part of Kordofan, involvement of Division 11, conflict instigators, proposed division of taxation by the Twic community, the impact of social media, and the presence of armed forces on the border, with the involvement of politicians from both communities.

At the core of these issues lie land disputes, specifically regarding the South Kiir River, claimed by the Twic Mayardit community based on historical references such as the 1956 map, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, and the Hague ruling in July 2009. The CPA emphasized that the 1956 map’s north-south line should remain unchanged, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration affirmed the January 1, 1956 map as the international borderline between the Kordofan and Bhar El Ghazal regions.

The Ngok Community proposed resolutions to address the conflict, including government intervention, the establishment of special tribunal courts for settling cases between the two communities, consultation of historical materials and maps to determine Aneet’s rightful ownership, and addressing the grievances of victims by arresting, investigating, and persecuting perpetrators to provide hope and de-escalate the conflict.

While government intervention and the establishment of special tribunal courts are plausible resolutions, the consultation of historical materials and maps may face challenges as the 1956 map is deemed clear evidence in favour of Twic Mayardit’s ownership of Aneet. Moreover, the involvement of international entities like the Hague ruling supports the geographic and political belonging of Aneet to Twic Mayardit.

Addressing criminal actions to provide hope to victims and de-escalate the conflict appears challenging, as it necessitates the decisions and actions of the South Sudanese and Sudanese governments.

While dialogue and judicial approaches have proven effective in resolving conflicts within Warrap and Wau states, the case of the Twic and Abyei conflicts demands a more nuanced approach. Unlike other local disputes, the Twic-Ngok issue involves an international border, necessitating the involvement of both South Sudan and Sudan governments.

Proposed judicial measures, such as constituting tribunals and special courts, may expedite resolutions for internal disputes in Warrap State but fall short when applied to the Twic-Ngok conflict due to its international nature. The crux of the matter lies in the international border, requiring a diplomatic and collaborative effort between the two nations.

Out of the 30 consolidated resolutions and recommendations, some solutions are not applicable to the Twic-Ngok situation. For instance, Resolution 2, which mandates the dispatch of judges to expedite trials and compensate victims, cannot effectively address the core issue of an international border dispute.

Similarly, Resolution 3, urging the involvement of the national government and the Council of States to demarcate internal boundaries based on January 1, 1956, is not viable for Twic-Ngok. This conflict requires the direct engagement of South Sudan and Sudan governments to resolve the international border disputes.

In contrast, issues in Wau, Apuk Giir, Aguok, Kuac, and Tonj, involving internal land disputes and cattle raiding, align more closely with the proposed solutions. These conflicts necessitated the intervention of the national government and the Council of States to settle and demarcate internal boundaries based on the historic reference point of January 1, 1956.

Resolution 5, calling for the comprehensive disarmament of civilians and secure storage of collected guns, poses significant challenges for Twic, as the Warrap Governor lacks jurisdiction over Abyei and Unity State. This resolution is especially perilous for Twic, given past incidents where Abyei youth attacked Twic areas, resulting in casualties and conflicts. Additionally, the involvement of UNISFA alongside Ngok militias in defending against attacks further complicates the disarmament proposition.

Resolution 11, advocating for the free movement of people, goods, and services between Twic and Abyei, encountered resistance from Ngok militias who opposed President Salva Kiir’s suggestion from March 2023. The Abyei Chief Administrator, Chol Deng Alak, also appears disinclined to support this resolution, making its implementation highly unlikely.

Resolution 14 suggests involving eminent personalities of Bhar El Ghazal, including George Kongor Arop, Awet Akot, and Aldo Ajou Deng Akuei, to meet with President Salva Kiir and discuss the Twic-Ngok conflicts. However, the likelihood of such a meeting remains uncertain, as these figures have seemingly overlooked the issue between Ngok and Twic, despite being well-acquainted with the truth of the matter. Their potential involvement may depend on their stance towards resolving the conflict.

Resolution 18, proposing the deployment of Division 11, 3, and 5 Forces with necessary logistics, faces practical and logistical challenges. Deploying forces without the inclusion of sons and daughters from Warrap, Western Bahr El Ghazal states, and Abyei Administrative Area may reveal weaknesses in the national government and promote tribal and sectional discrimination within the army.

Resolution 22 envisions security cooperation among Bahr El Ghazal State Governors and the Abyei Administrative Area Chief Administrator. However, the collaboration may face obstacles, as Chol Deng Alak’s alleged involvement in fostering insecurity in Twic areas could hinder cooperation.

Resolution 23 outlines the implementation of four of President’s Directives, including creating a buffer zone at Aneet, relocating Abyei Administrative Units, deploying SSPDF to conflict-affected areas, and opening roads for free movement. The feasibility of these directives may hinge on the willingness of involved parties to cooperate and implement the proposed measures.

Resolution 24 advocates for the relocation of UNISFA to Abyei town while adhering to its mandate. This proposal emphasizes the urgency of UNISFA leaving Twic areas, such as Anthony, Aneet, Agok, Abithok, and Wutpeeth, along the South Kiir River.

Resolution 28 suggests banning the use of humanitarian and United Nations maps for local/internal boundaries demarcation in South Sudan. This prohibition is deemed necessary to prevent conflicts generated by UNISFA and other United Nations agencies using such maps.

Resolution 30 demands the removal of immunities for constitutional post holders, generals, local government administrators, and community leaders proven to have incited conflicts in Warrap State. However, scepticism arises regarding the practical implementation of this resolution, especially in cases like Twic and Ngok, where influential figures allegedly fuelled the conflict using an illegal map of Abyei Box.

The recommendation to replace Division 11 with Divisions 3 and 5 of SSPDF for immediate deployment at Aneet, Agok, and the South Kiir River for the Twic-Ngok border conflict faces challenges. Immediate deployment was deemed feasible after an attack in Ayuok village, but the national government’s response was lacking.

The call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and dialogue for peaceful settlement of the Twic-Ngok conflict, involving relevant sub-national and national governments, appears challenging. The international boundary issue necessitates the attention of the Presidents of South Sudan and Sudan.

A coordinated, comprehensive disarmament of civilians across Warrap State and neighbouring communities is proposed, but concerns are raised about the potential for violence, making this recommendation a potential source of bloodshed.

Lastly, the proposal to apprehend and try cattle raiders and thieves in special courts, with capital punishment affirmed subject to due process, raises questions about the feasibility of swift trials and the potential for revenge killings. The compensation of victims based on Wanh-Alel customary laws adds complexity to the legal framework.

The apprehension, trial, and sentencing of cattle raiders and thieves in South Sudan face significant obstacles due to the current state of the judicial system. The system’s paralysis, attributed to a shortage of judges and financial constraints, necessitates urgent reforms. Improving the economic status of judicial employees by increasing salaries is crucial to combat bribery and enhance the overall effectiveness of the legal system.

Proposed resolutions for the Twic Mayardit and Ngok conflict are as follows:

Rejecting the Green Book: Members of the Twic Community, including elders, national members of Parliament, youth, women leaders, and elders, should collectively reject signing the Green Book, as it does not apply to Twic Mayardit.

Presidential Decision: The South Sudanese and Sudanese presidents must take a decisive stance on the violent conflict between Ngok and Twic Mayardit.

National Committee Formation: Establish a seven-member national committee, comprising individuals such as General Akol Koor Kuch, Chief Madhel Lang Juuk, Honorable Thiik Thiik Mayardit, and representatives from Aweil, Ruweng, and Unity State. This committee will coordinate the peace process between the two rival communities.

UNISFA Relocation: Move UNISFA from Twic areas, including Athony, Aneet, Agok, Abithong, and Wutpeeth, located south of the Kiir River, to the north of the Kiir River.

Presidential Order on Land Dispute: The land dispute between Ngok and Twic Mayardit will persist until President Salva Kiir issues a presidential order directing the Abyei Administration and UNISFA to relocate to the north of the Kiir River.

Legal Action: If President Kiir declines to issue the presidential order for Ngok and UNISFA to cross the Kiir River, a case will be filed against the South Sudanese government and Ngok politicians with the East African Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Administrative Area Status: In the event that Ngok fails to recognize the Kiir River as the international border and refuses to relocate to the north side, Twic County should be granted administrative area status to interface with the Abyei Administrative Area, ensuring fair representation.

Paulino Mamiir Chol is the Chairperson of Twic Unity Forum (TUF) and a former leader in the Lost Boys/Red Army. He served as the former Chairperson of the Interim Committee of the Twic Mayardit Community in the USA. Paulino is a Ph.D. candidate in Management and Homeland Security at Colorado Technical University.

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.