Sudan: UN Demands Halt to Fighting and Immediate Troop Withdrawal From Abyei

Photo: UN Photo/Stuart Price
Smoke trails from burning homes in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly independent South Sudan.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned the continuing escalation of violence in Sudan's disputed area of Abyei, as the Security Council called on the Khartoum-based Government to immediately halt all military operations and withdraw its troops from the territory.

The Security Council said the taking over of Abyei by Government of Sudan troops constituted a serious violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 to end two decades of civil war between the north and the south.

The Council said the seizure of Abyei “threatens to undermine the mutual commitment of the parties to avoid a return of to war and resolve all remaining CPA and post-CPA issues peacefully.”

“The members of the Security Council call upon the Government of Sudan to halt its military operations and withdraw immediately from Abyei town and its environs,” the Council said in a statement.

The Secretary-General said he “remains deeply concerned for the safety of the civilian population of the area, the vast majority of whom has been forcibly displaced due to the fighting,” said a statement issued by the his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban deplored the actions of those responsible for the shelling of the United Nations compound, an assault that wounded two peacekeepers, and demanded that the perpetrators be held accountable for the attack.

The Council deplored the unilateral decision by the Government in Khartoum to dissolve the Abyei administration and called for its immediate reestablishment by mutual agreement.

“The members of the Security Council demand the immediate withdrawal of all military elements from Abyei and the full implementation of the Kadugli Agreement,” according to the statement.

They urged both parties to restore calm, uphold the CPA, and recommit to a negotiated political settlement on the future status of Abyei, including under the auspices of the African Union High Level Implementation plan.

Mr. Ban appealed to both sides in the conflict to ensure the safety and security of UN personnel and reiterated his call for an investigation into the attacks on UN troops in Goli on 10 May and the raid on a UN-escorted convoy on Thursday to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Members of the Council underscore the responsibility of the parties to protect civilians. They further underscore the need for the parties to respect the mandate of UNMIS [UN Mission in Sudan],” they said, condemning the shelling of the UNMIS compound in Abyei. They noted that UNMIS remains ready to continue facilitating the Kadugli Agreement on deescalating tensions in Abyei.

The Secretary-General also called on both parties to immediately cease their military operations, withdraw all forces and armed elements from Abyei and desist from further acts of hostilities.

“He calls on the parties to uphold their previous commitments to maintain peace and security in the Abyei Area through mechanisms already agreed upon and engage in serious discussions to find a final settlement to the Abyei issue before 9 July.”

Deadly clashes have claimed dozens of lives since the start of the year, when a referendum on Abyei's status that was supposed to have been held never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.

Southern Sudan will formally secede from the rest of the country on 9 July as a result of a separate referendum held in January and both north and south claim Abyei.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that most civilians had fled Abyei town, with the majority of those displaced, mainly women and children, thought to have taken refuge in villages south of Abyei town. All non-governmental organisations' personnel in Abyei relocated yesterday to Agok, 40 kilometres south of Abyei town.

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Smoke trails from burning homes in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly independent South Sudan.

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