It is unlikely that any progress will be made on the issue of Abyei in the near future. Both Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as ‘Hemeti’), the two leaders in Sudan’s conflict, have been cultivating the Misseriya as a political constituency, though for now the nazir of the Humr Misseriya, Babu Nimr, has declared political neutrality. In such circumstances, with both the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and SAF focused on military survival, Abyei receives little attention. Militarily, the area is unlikely to become a centre for conflict. If robust South Sudanese rebel forces were in the border area, they could serve as effective RSF proxies; however, Hemeti is cautiously trying to maintain a relationship with Juba and is unlikely to want to alienate Kiir. Just as importantly, there are no rebel organizations in the border region with the sort of materiel and manpower that would make a difference in the Sudanese conflict. As one political commentator stated in an interview: ‘[T]his would be a wonderful opportunity for a rebel group [. . .] If only there were rebels.’[13]

The only exception to this relatively stable prognosis is the status of Diffra. Hemeti had some success in recruitment among the Misseriya and a strike on the SAF-controlled (but Misseriya-surrounded) oil production site represents something of a nuclear option, though this remains unlikely. Hemeti is at pains to try and burnish his reputation as a credible statesperson; already stained by his presence in Moscow at the outset of the invasion of Ukraine, he would be unlikely to win support among his patrons in the United Arab Emirates for the destruction of scarce oil reserves. For Burhan, Hemeti, and Kiir alike, stasis and stagnation on the Abyei file remain the most politically productive option.

[13] Telephone interview, Juba, with a South Sudanese political analyst, May 2023.