Research Paper Number



Cindy Daase

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Abyei; alternative dispute settlement; arbitration; International law; peace agreement; secession; South Sudan


In 2008, the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) submitted an arbitration agreement with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. In a unique fast track procedure, an international arbitration tribunal had to determine in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, in particular the Abyei Protocol and Abyei Appendix, the Interim National Constitution (INC) and general principles of law, whether the Abyei Border Commission (ABC) exceeded its mandate, which was to define and demarcate the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905. In case of excess, the parties entrusted the tribunal with redefining the boundaries of the disputed territory based on the parties’ submissions. To guarantee the transparency of the procedure and to generate acceptance by all stakeholders on the ground, all hearings and documents were made publically available. The procedure and the more than 200-pages-long final Award from July 2009 constitute an illustrative example of an international dispute settlement procedure dealing with an intra-state (territorial) dispute between a state and a secessionist movement. The paper asks why and how the parties initiated the arbitration procedure and evaluates the still disputed status of the Abyei Region and the record of the parties’ (non-)compliance with the Abyei Award and its role in the ongoing status-negotiations between Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan. By inter alia taking a comparative perspective with other international dispute settlements the paper critically discusses the legal-political implications of the Abyei Arbitration and whether it could serve as a model or lesson learned when it comes to the effectiveness and success of international arbitration and its potential contribution to the settlement of intra-state (territorial) disputes.