23 May 2011

Sudan: South Apologizes to UN for Attack On Northern Forces in 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.

Juba — South Sudan's government has apologized for the attack on Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday, May 19, in Abyei, which triggered in the northern army capturing the town on Saturday, May 21.

On Thursday the SAF accused the South Sudan army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), for attacking its convoy which was withdrawing from Abyei in implementation of the Kadugli security agreement.

The SAF were being accompanied by the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) when they came under attack on by the SPLA on Thursday.

On Sunday the incident was condemned by the visiting delegation from the UN Security Council in Khartoum.

"The members of the Security Council condemn the attack by Southern forces against a United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) convoy escorting Sudanese Armed Forces elements of Joint Integrated Units on May 19 in Abyei," read a statement by Suzan Rice, the representative of the United States at the Security Council.

"The attack was not only a serious breach of agreements between the parties, but also a criminal act against a United Nations mission and its personnel," the statement said.

UNMIS also condemned the attacks and said it was a criminal act against the UN. It called on the parties involved to investigate the incident and take appropriate action against the perpetrators of the attack.

However, in a press conference on Sunday in the Southern capital, Juba, the spokesman of the government Barnaba Marial Benjamin, on behalf of the government of South Sudan apologised to UNMIS for Thursday's incident in Abyei, saying it was not intentional.

Speaking to UN-run radio station Miraya FM, SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer also said that the incident was not intentional. He further explained that unidentified persons fired on the SAF convoy, adding that the matter would be investigated.

The SPLA spokesman during a joint briefing of foreign diplomats in Juba on Monday together with the minister of information said SAF forces have also advanced southwards and occupied by force a disputed territory called Kuek in northern Upper Nile state.

Reports also suggest that SAF has advanced southwards towards the Kiir river close to Warrap state on Monday and captured the main bridge close to the January 1, 1956 border left by the British between north and south Sudan.

Aguer accused the northern army of organizing a full scale war and warned that any further move by the northern army in an attempt to cross the North-South borders of 1956 will not be tolerated.

The UN Security Council on Sunday issued a statement also calling on the northern SAF to withdraw from Abyei after its military takeover on Saturday.

"The members of the Security Council call upon the government of Sudan to halt its military operation and to withdraw immediately from Abyei town and its environs," the French ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, told a joint news conference in Khartoum with his Russian and US counterparts.

They also deplored the "unilateral" decision by president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to dissolve the Abyei administrative council and called for its reinstatement "without delay".

The UN Security Council members were expected to arrive in Juba from Khartoum on Monday and hold talks with senior South Sudan officials that evening.

Marial, the spokesmen of the South Sudan government, called on the SAF forces in Abyei to withdraw from the town. He denounced violence and said his government was seeking peaceful means to settle the dispute over Abyei.

Meanwhile citizens of Abyei residing in Juba organized a street protest on Monday shouting "Abyei is 100% belonging to South Sudan."

In January the South voted by nearly 99% to separate from north Sudan in a referendum agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal. A special protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement stipulated that residents of the disputed Abyei region would hold a simultaneous plebiscite to determine whether the region would join South Sudan or remain in South Kordofan state, north of the border.

However, Khartoum's ruling National Congress Party and the SPLM, who govern the south could not agree on who was allowed to take part and the vote did not go ahead.

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