This is Abyei.
It is the most contested, the most emotionally charged and, recently, the most violent piece of land in this country of nearly one million square miles. As southern Sudan’s historic independence referendum came to a close on Saturday, this nation is rapidly preparing to split in half and the focus is shifting here.
Abyei has oil. It has fertile land. It straddles the disputed border between north and south Sudan, and it is crawling with militias, which have clashed in recent days, killing dozens. Two rival ethnic groups claim the right to belong here — the Misseriya, who are Arab nomads, and the Ngok Dinka, sub-Saharan cattle herders — and the bitterness between them is long and deep.
“Hyena and Misseriya,” said Kuol Alor Kuol, a 72-year-old Dinka man with foggy glasses, about why he was sauntering down Abyei’s main road with a fully loaded Kalashnikov. “They’re trying to take what I have.”
Most people here seem armed to the teeth. Out on the front line, in half-deserted villages of crushed mud huts and endless yellow grass, a young Dinka man in a tank top lounged at a police post, an assault rifle in his hands. Around him were teenagers in shorts and flip-flops, clutching cheap automatic weapons.
“There are no civilians here,” said John Ajang, the acting secretary general of Abyei’s local government.
the entire article can be read at the NY Times