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UN Security Council urged to extend Sudan-South Sudan UNISFA mandate

May 1 - 2021 NEW YORK
Ethiopian soldiers in Abyei (UN)
Ethiopian soldiers in Abyei (UN)

Citing the volatile security situation, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, requested that the Security Council consider a six-month rollover of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) mandate in the disputed Abyei* region.

The rollover, which means UNISFA would remain present in Abyei until October 15, was suggested “in order to give Sudan and South Sudan the space to discuss future arrangements and the way forward.”

“The new rapprochement between Sudan and South Sudan has yet to translate into significant improvements on the ground in relation to their dispute over the Abyei region,” he told a videoconference briefing on Tuesday.

UNISFA was established by Council resolution 1990 (2011) to include an initial deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops, 50 police personnel, and appropriate civilian support to provide security and protect civilians under imminent threat of violence in Abyei.

Lacroix said Sudan and South Sudan agreed, during a meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism hosted by the Government of Sudan in October, to establish checkpoints, introduce search and seize operations, deploy joint military observer teams and accelerate progress on the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, as well as border-related benchmarks.

“However, the security situation and intercommunal relations in the region remain tense,” he said.

During the ensuing debate, Security Council members encouraged Sudan and South Sudan to build on their current warming relations. Some delegates said "the two national leaders must seize the present opportunity to determine Abyei’s final status and meet the aspirations of its communities." Several speakers called for renewing UNISFA’s mandate for six months to ensure that a clear, effective exit strategy is finalised.

The announcement follows a request by Sudan for the UN to replace the Ethiopian soldiers deployed in Abyei with other soldiers, because “it is not reasonable to have Ethiopian forces in the strategic depth of Sudan at a time when the Ethiopian forces are gathering on the eastern borders of Sudan,” confirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Maryam El Sadig El Mahdi on April 7.

At the time, Radio Dabanga reported that the popular leadership of the Abyei area echoed El Mahdi’s call for the removal of Ethiopian troops from UNISFA, asserting that “they are no longer keeping security there and have become an element for instability and insecurity”.

Forces of the People’s Army of South Sudan attacked Abyei area on April 2, killing seven persons and looting thousands of cattle, according to Secretary General of West Kordofan Development Alliance, Abdelhameed Mansour, who also echoed calls for Ethiopian soldiers to be removed.

* Abyei

Abyei is the traditional homeland of the Ngok Dinka, who have with strong ties with the South Sudanese Dinka tribe. Herders of the Misseriya, a northern Arab tribe, traverse Abyei and other North-South border areas with their cattle in search of water and pasture in the dry season and to trade goods.

The region witnesses many cases of cattle rustling, hijacks, and other robberies. There is no government or police force in the area and a UN peacekeeping mission, UNISFA, is entrusted with overseeing demilitarisation and maintaining security in the area.

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