OPINION: WHY RUWENG DESERVES TO BE ADMINISTERED INDEPENDENTLY FROM UNITY STATE

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek,

Kampala, Uganda

Feb 19, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — The recent debates triggered by the reversal of 32 States except Ruweng, Pibor and Abyei made do more search on the historical status of Ruweng.  I hope I will do the same thing with Pibor since there is no debate over the Abyei Status. 

The findings of the research has convinced me to conclude that the government is right to treat the issue of Ruweng a special case. To support my foregoing conclusion, I have extracted the work of Douglas H. Johnson entitled, The Heglig oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan.  It is published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies and cited as: Douglas H. Johnson (2012) The Heglig oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 6:3, 561-569, DOI: 10.1080/17531055.2012.696910. To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2012.696910.  

The above cited article of Douglas H. John gives clear historical account of the background of Ruweng State or administrative area and its people and why in my opinion it deserves to be administered independently until its clear boundaries are determined by independence Arbitrators.  

The oil said to be found in Unity State is basically according to the findings located in the Administrative Area of Ruweng. Because of that it is important to remove the issue of Ruweng from the politics of South Sudan so that its boundaries are clearly determined whether the oil in Unity State exclusively belongs to the people of Ruweng or some of it belong to another communities.

Knowing as to whose area is the oil found in Ruweng Administrative Area helps in the local people found to be the right owners of the land benefiting from the oil. This means that it is something connected to welfare of the people. It should not therefore be hit with the political hammer. It must be determined independently and fairly so that all the parties fighting over the land are satisfied or at least convinced that justice was done. 

Ruweng State or Ruweng Administrative Area should not be lumped into the greater Unity State, which may even cause further conflicts among the locals. The Government of South Sudan should be fully aware that the people of Ruweng have been victims of Sudan and South Sudan turbulent History.  Their history may be compared with that of the Jewish People in Israel. 

Based on the above analysis, I am of the view that the issue of Ruweng should be determined honestly independent of politics. There are arrays of materials that can help us to locate the exact boundary of Ruweng Administrative Area or Panaru. These range from the British and Sudanese Documents from 1905 up to 2005 in the history archives.

I promised I will do more research on Ruweng State but for the ongoing debate I urge the readers who are interested in why Ruweng is so special to be given special status to read the work by Douglas Johnson. Douglas John is an expert on Sudan and South Sudan history. His works on Sudan and South Sudan contain more accurate information on different places in South Sudan. Thus, I urge all the readers to read more about Ruweng obtained from the work of Douglas John as cited above and given below in full—

The colonial background

The Rueng Dinka territory of Panaru is at the centre of the debate over the location of Panthou/Heglig. The Rueng, who are now contained within Unity State in the Republic of South Sudan, neighbour the Ngok Dinka and originally were administered along with them as part of Kordofan Province. Their current location in Unity State, and the disputed location of Panthou/Heglig, is the outcome of a series of administrative transfers in the early twentieth century.

At the beginning of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium the Rueng Dinka were found with their cattle as far north as Lake Keilak, in what is now South Kordofan. In 1907 it was reported that many of them had left ‘‘Fanaru [Panaru] in South Kordofan’’ for Khor Atar in Upper Nile because of raiding by the Misseriya-Humr.4

By 1913 the Awet section of the Rueng were complaining about further incursions by the Misseriya-Humr on their lands around Lake Jau (or Abiad), where the Awet had settled ‘‘long before the Arabs came’’. 

When the Nuba Mountains were extracted from Kordofan to become a separate province in 1913, the Rueng sections were divided between the Nuba Mountains and Kordofan. One branch of Rueng was transferred to the neighbouring southern province of Bahr el-Ghazal in the early 1920s, and in 1927, following the decision to re-absorb the Nuba Mountains Province into Kordofan, most of the rest of the Rueng were transferred there too, on the grounds that they were more easily accessible to the administrators of Bahr el-Ghazal and that they were already in close contact with the Nuer of that province. 

The boundary rectification between the provinces was made at a local level meeting of the neighbouring District Commissioners. The Rueng were now split between Bahr el-Ghazal and Kordofan, where some Dinka remained as part of the Southern Kordofan District with its headquarters at Kadugli.

 By 1930, however, all Rueng were transferred to the administration of Upper Nile Province, and in 1931 the provincial boundaries were gazetted as follows—As a result of the transfer of the Rueng Ajubba the Rueng Await [Awet] and the Rueng Alorr sections of Dinka from Kordofan to Upper Nile Province, the boundary between these Provinces has been altered as follows:-

Commencing from a point on the existing Province Boundary midway between Debba Mongok and Debba Karam Nyet (Lat. 98 21? Long 288 38?) the boundary runs in an easterly direction until it meets Khor Amadgora. Thence northwards to the Bahr el Arab leaving the village of Rumla Ngork to the Upper Nile. Thence in a N. Easterly direction to the Raqaba ez Zarqa at a point ½ mile west of Tibusia, thence along the Raqaba ez Zarqa to ‘Aradeib, thence eastward along Lat. 98 45? to the old Kordofan _ Upper Nile boundary, thence north along that boundary and continuing along the old Kordofan N.M.P. boundary to Lat. 108 5? marked on the map ‘‘Clump of Heglig’’ thence N. Easterly to a point 3 miles due west of the centre of Lake Abyad [Lake Jau], thence due east to the eastern shore of the Lake, thence S.E. through the Fed Abu Finyer to the Rest House at the point where the Tonga-Talodi road crosses the Haqaba south of Abu Qussa, thence up that Raqaba to where it joins the existing Province Boundary. 

This was the official provincial boundary line in effect when Sudan became independent on 1 January 1956. The Sudan Survey 1:250,000 maps 65-H and 65-L on which this boundary was marked (see Figure 2), and on which all subsequent maps of the area are based, was last updated for topographical detail in 1937. 

The area bisected by the line is mainly a blank space. It is a dry season grazing area shared by the Alor and Awet Rueng, and the Ngok Dinka. Aside from marking some water sources and the occasional clump of heglig trees (Balanites aegyptiaca: hijlij in Arabic and thou in Dinka) no villages or annual cattle camps, no place names of ‘‘Panthou’’, ‘‘Aliiny’’ (the Awet name) or even ‘‘Heglig’’ are recorded. 

The reason is that this area lay outside administrators’ usual trek routes.  Rueng Dinka sections (Sudan Survey Department, 1:2,000,000 Map Sudan Tribes Sheet 3, 1956). The highlighted dashed line shows the provincial boundary. The heavy black broken line represents an alleged dividing line between Arab and African peoples.

The maps record the main lines of communication and main waterways. They document the limits of administrative knowledge, not the full scale of indigenous settlement. There is another 1931 description of the boundary, this time from the District Commissioner who described the de facto boundary on the ground as running ‘‘from the junction of the Khors Loll and Bau north between the Ruweng Alor and Ngork [Ngok] Dinka, thence in a semi-circle towards the north of Milleim el Deleibi to the southern edge of Lake Abiad and thence south of Jebel Kurondi’’,10 in other words a crescent, rather than a straight line.

Oil, name changes and ethnic cleansing

The discovery of oil in the late 1970s created immediate tensions between the central government in Khartoum and the Southern Regional Government in Juba. Oil was declared a national resource, and official announcements from Khartoum were vague about the location of the main oil fields, stating only that they were located some 500 kms south of Khartoum. 

The first fields to be developed were given names such as ‘‘Unity’’ and ‘‘Heglig’’ which disguised their location, and the Chevron oil company based its headquarters in Muglad rather than Bentiu. In 1980 the national parliament attempted to redraw the boundaries of Upper Nile Province with the boundary line (Sudan Survey 1:250,000 maps 65-H (May 1937) and 65-L (June 1936) from digital copies provided by the Bodleian Library, passage of legislation establishing new regional governments in northern Sudan, and the map accompanying the legislation annexed the oil fields to Kordofan.

This map was withdrawn after protests from the Southern Regional government. One of the first fields to be developed was at Panthou, meaning ‘‘the place (or village) of the Balanites aegyptiaca’’ in Dinka. The name was changed to Heglig in Arabic. Nimeiri proposed to create a new Unity Region by amalgamating Western Upper Nile District, Abyei and parts of Southern Kordofan, but in the end only Western Upper Nile was renamed Unity when the Southern Region was abolished in 1983 and Upper Nile Region was reconstituted by re-uniting Upper Nile and Jonglei Provinces.

There was also controversy on the siting of an oil refinery to process oil from the field. The decision was made to site the refinery on the White Nile at Kosti, linked to the oil fields by a pipeline. In 1983, shortly before the Bor Mutiny and the outbreak of civil war, an official map of the route of the pipeline was released, showing it starting at the oil fields within Western Upper Nile District, but immediately routed north out of Upper Nile into Kordofan, paralleling the Nile until it reached Kosti.11

The civil war brought an end to oil exploitation inside Upper Nile until the 1990s when the SAF and allied militias cleared large areas of their civilian populations. The establishment of Sudan’s oil industry in Unity State was accomplished through massive demographic displacement of its indigenous inhabitants, especially along the old provincial boundary lines. 

The territory of Panaru, in particular, was cleansed of its occupants to make way for the development and expansion of the oil industry. Up through 2003 it was generally understood that Panthou, or Heglig, was part of the Unity State administration, and the National Congress Party-appointed governor of Unity State, Dr Joseph Monytuil, described it as such in his 2003 annual report. 

In mid-2004, as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) negotiations were drawing to a conclusion, he was informed by Dr Nafie Ali Nafie, then Minister of Federal Government Chambers in the office of the Presidency, that he was mistaken, and ‘‘that Heglig does not belong to Unity State as it appeared in your aforesaid map but it belongs to Western Kordofan State as indicated in the accompanying map approved by the National Survey Corporation, for information and correction of the map of Unity State referred to’. 

The accompanying map (Figure 3) identifying this correction is not detailed enough to determine whether Heglig is located in relation to the 1931 provincial boundary line at 298 32? (and some seconds), or the line has been moved east in order to include Heglig in Western Kordofan.

It should be noted that the two protocols of the CPA affecting the division of oil revenues _ the Wealth Sharing Protocol (7 January 2004), and the Abyei Protocol (26 May 2004) _ were signed before the date of Nafie Ali Nafie’s letter (14 June 2004). Placing Heglig in Western Kordofan would therefore have been done in full knowledge that only the revenue from fields within South Sudan would be shared.

Daniel Juol Nhomngek is a lawyer by profession holds LLB from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.   He’s currently working with M/S Ibaale, Nakato & Co., Advocates, P.o Box 26781, Kampala, Uganda. His research, he is interested in teaching and law practice in the areas of criminal law, international human rights law and the law of armed conflicts, public international law, administrative law, Equity and Trusts, constitutional law, Jurisprudence or political philosophy, legal methods and theory,  legislative drafting and judicial practice; and law & public policy.

For any comment please reach the authority through any one of the these email addresses: juolmarialdit@gmail.com or juoldaniel2003@gmail.com


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