A wave of violence broke out on May 19th and has continued over the past several days along the 4,000 square-mile region of Abyei between north Sudan and soon to be formed Republic of South Sudan. Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Abyei was slated to undergo its own referendum vote in early January to decide whether or not to form part of the soon to be independent Republic of South Sudan. Because the north and the south could not decide who had a right to vote in the elections the vote was postponed and no new date has been set.
The region has been plagued by violence over the past several years including recent conflict that left more than 100 dead and displaced an estimated 20,000 last March. Church partners and UN officials report burning and looting and the city of Abyei has been emptied of its residents.
At the time of the attacks Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was in Abyei supervising the distribution of food and essential household items to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the March conflict. CRS was also planning a tools and seeds fair to support the local economy and help farmers get much-needed crops into the ground in advance of the rains. All operations were suspended due to insecurity. In March CRS provided more than 2,300 people with food, shelter and household items.
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