Understanding the Heglig Dispute

Both Sudan and South Sudan claim ownership of the city that Sudan calls Heglig and South Sudan calls Panthou. This article by Dr Luka Biong Deng published by Gurtong explains the dispute from the point of view of the leadership of the SPLA and government of South Sudan. Dr. Deng wrote:

Despite claims to the contrary, Heglig was absolutely not determined to be part of Sudan (the North) by the July 2009 ruling of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal (referred by many in South Sudan as the Permanent Court of Arbitration decision (PCA decision). The parties signed an Abyei Arbitration Agreement in 2008 which clearly provided that the mandate of the arbitration tribunal was simply to determine if the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) exceeded its mandate and if it did, to then “define (i.e. delimit) on map the boundaries of the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905.”

This is the full report of the tribunal.

Dr. Luka Biong Deng goes on to note that:

What is indisputable is that South Sudan claims Heglig as theirs and Sudan claims it as theirs. The fact that Sudan has refused to “agree” that it is disputed —both in the context of the Technical Ad-hoc Border Committee and in the Addis negotiations— does not make it any less a disputed area. Those who would refuse to support the submission of Heglig to a peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms because it is not an “agreed disputed area” are playing a dangerous game by leaving a critical matter unresolved between the parties which can result in continued hostilities. The purpose of the negotiations is to address such matters, not leave them to foment distrust and violence in the future.

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