Discrete Community Mapping in Sudan

On Wednesday July 22, the Abyei Arbitration Council will announce its “Award”at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. Latest act in a train of events since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 by Southern and Northern Sudan.

In 2005, the CPA also created the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal (AAT) which issued a Final and Binding Ruling on the north-south border – which could become an international border following a referendum on Southern Sudan independence slated for 2011.

Kharthoum rejected this Ruling, causing a stalemate until May 2008 when the town of Abyei, ancestral centre for the Ngok Dinka, was methodically sacked by a combination of Misseriya militias and troops from Khartoum - displacing 60,000 residents as collateral.

The border delineated by the AAT had been based on exhaustive interviews with elders from the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms, coupled with equally exhaustive historical map research. But, none of the sites mentioned by the elders, as evidence of ancestral occupancy, had been geocoded with GPS. The purpose of this mapping project was to rectify that with a repeat performance using GPS.

A legal team, from the US-based Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and London-based WilmerHale, along with Southern Sudanese, colleagues re-interviewed the elders during a week long conference of all nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms to plan the restoration of Abyei. During that same week, a team of 12 Ngok Dinka were trained in the use GPS units, videos and still cameras. At the same time, the lawyers’ interviews provided the information about the significant historical sites needed by the team to build up a legend. For litigational reasons beyond my understanding it was essential to demonstrate that, by 1905, Ngok Dinka had occupied an area well to the north of Abyei town.

Ngok Dinka memory stretched far further back than 1905. A principle signifier of historical occupancy were sites identified with Names for Age Sets, which were changed every ten years. The elders recited age set names and places going back centuries, the oldest stretched to 1508.

The mapping method was simple. Following the Abyei restoration conference, the team visited each chiefdom in turn and spent a day talking with 25 elders, going over recorded sites and seeking more. They then divided into three units and three vehicles, and selected elders guided them to the sites that had been listed. In two stints over the last winter, the mapping team, covered the disputed area and recorded almost 300 sites. Each evening the mapping log book were written up and emailed to International Mapping, Baltimore, US.

With the critical area covered...

FINISH READING at the PPGIS.net blog: http://participatorygis.blogspot.com/2009/07/discrete-community-mapping-in-sudan.html