Origins of the Ngok–Twic conflict

The Ngok and Twic Dinka are historically very close. Friction only emerged in 2017, when the Abyei Area Administration (AAA) began a land registry in Annet, a bustling market near Agok, in southern Abyei. The Twic Dinka denounced the land registry, which was subsequently halted. The putative reason for this discontent was that some Twic Dinka claimed that Agok and Annet are located within Twic county, Warrap state. The Ngok Dinka, however, consider the boundaries of Abyei to have been determined by a decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2009, and Agok and Annet to be part of their territory. The Twic’s claim to these territories is very recent in origin and is not actually about long-standing territorial disagreements, but rather an attempt to control Annet and the humanitarian hub in Agok, where many international NGOs based themselves following SAF’s invasion of Abyei.

Twic claims to southern Abyei are bound up in the mutual marginalization of the two communities. The Ngok Dinka feel forgotten by a South Sudanese government intent on forging a relationship with Khartoum. The Twic, too, feel marginalized; the removal of Bona Panek (the then Twic governor of Warrap) and his replacement by Aleu Ayieny Aleu saw the Twic lose influence in Kuajok and Juba (Craze, 2022). The Twic saw the weakness of Ngok Dinka as an opportunity. Agok’s status as a humanitarian hub and the tax base offered by Annet have provided a source of income for the AAA. Twic county has seen almost no economic development and, like the rest of South Sudan, has suffered from a government in Juba bent on the illegitimate acquisition of resources (Craze, 2023). Twic county is not alone: communities across the country have made exclusive claims to control of territory and resources in response to the exploitation of the country by politicians in Juba, and the withdrawal of the government from the provision of wages and services (Craze and Marko, 2022).