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Ethiopian UNISFA forces in Sudan to be replaced

August 25 - 2021 KHARTOUM
UN police in Abyei (UNISFA)
UN police in Abyei (UNISFA)

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday welcomed the positive response of the United Nations to the government’s request to replace the Ethiopian soldiers in the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) by forces from other countries.

The Ethiopian forces will be withdrawn from Abyei* within three months, FA Minister Maryam El Sadig said in a press statement yesterday, following a virtual meeting with the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, Parfit Anyanga, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and the Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, Atul Kari the evening before.

The meeting discussed developments and the UN peacekeeping mission (UNISFA) in the Abyei Area, she stated.

The UN Special Envoy lauded the improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan, and affirmed UN support for Sudan's efforts to stabilise the countries of the Horn of Africa, as chair of the current session of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The FA Minister said she has pledged to facilitate a smooth exit of the Ethiopian forces from Abyei and the arrival of other forces. She will also remove “all obstacles facing the joint border verification and control mechanism to carry out its tasks and required role”.

A decades-old dispute over Ethiopian farmers cultivating land in Sudan’s El Gedaref flared up last year, with Ethiopian forces and bandits attacked Sudanese forces in El Gedaref. In December, the Sudanese army regained control of the border in El Fashaga in El Gedaref.

Relations have also been strained over the past months following stalled three-way talks between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, as well as Ethiopia’s unilateral second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

* Abyei is an area of 10,546 km² on the border between South Sudan and the Sudan that has been accorded "special administrative status" by the Protocol on the Resolution of the Abyei Conflict in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement under the leadership of the late John Garang in what was at the time southern Sudan.

The area, with its rich oil reserves, is claimed by both countries. Inhabited by Dinka (linked with Dinka in South Sudan) and Misseriya (a Sudanese herders’ tribe) Abyei has been the scene of many ethnic conflicts in the past.

The establishment of UNISFA was approved on June 27, 2011 by the UN Security Council following the return of the war in nearby South Kordofan, and not long before the official secession of South Sudan from Sudan on July 2011. Until date, the Ethiopian army has been the largest contributor of personnel to UNISFA.


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