Juba — A group of activists on Monday demanded that UN peace keepers forcefully remove the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops from Abyei, nearly a week after Sudan ignored a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all its remaining military and police personnel from the disputed region.
At a press briefing organised to mark the first anniversary of SAF's alleged invasion of Abyei, members of the Abyei Community Organization (ACO) in Juba expressed concern over the continued presence of Khartoum's forces in the region, after South Sudan's withdrawl of over 700 police personnel.
South Sudan complied with the UNSC resolution endorsing recommendations from African Union's Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), which demanded that both Sudan and South Sudan withdraw their forces from Abyei, to prevent further conflict between the two nations.
Welcoming the withdrawal of South Sudanese military and police personnel from Abyei, the UNSC stated that "the Abyei area shall be demilitarized from any forces other than UNISFA [UN Interim Security Force for Abyei] and the Abyei Police Service".
Describing the people of Abyei as "victims of a dishonored agreement," Deng Mading, the chairperson of the ACO accused UNISFA of being "compromised" by Khartoum, the interests of which it is furthering.
"SAF remains in Abyei to-date, despite warnings from UNSC for them to withdraw. But why is the international community silent over the matter?" Mading asked.
UNIFSA was established by the UNSC in June 2011 following an outbreak of violence between Juba and Khartoum's troops. The 4,200 Ethiopia troops are tasked with monitoring the demilitarisation of the region which occupied by SAF in May 2011.
Last week, the UNSC passed a resolution renewing the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Abyei for six months, further demanding that Sudan and South Sudan establish an administration for Abyei in-line with an agreement signed last year.
The UNSC also expressed its intention to review UNISFA mandate after four months, in light of the levels of compliance to the agreement set out in Juba, shown by Juba and Khartoum.
Mading accused the Misseriya ethnic group of invading Dinka-Ngok communities and raiding 700 heads of cattle and 300 goats in the presence of UN peacekeepers. The incident, he added, took place immediately after South Sudanese forces withdrew from Abyei.
A referendum in which the citizens of the area would be able to decide on its statehood was scheduled to take place in 2011. However, with the eligibility to vote of different ethnic groups still a matter of contention it has not yet taken place. The Misseriya are nomadic and traditionally aligned with Khartoum. They spend part of the year in the region, but not enough to vote, according to many of the Juba-aligned Ngok-Dinka ethnic group who also live in the region.
"One then wonders why the SPLA [South Sudan's army; Sudan People's Liberation Army] is rushing to implement the UNSC resolution, yet their counterparts [SAF] remain defiant. This is unrealistic," said Mading.
He also urged South Sudan's negotiation team to not discuss matters related to Abyei with Sudan, until the latter complies with the UN resolution and completely withdraws its forces from the disputed region.
He echoed South Sudan's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement's (SPLM) calls for the Thabo-Mbeki led African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan to be replaced by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), describing the AU initiative as a "none starter".
Chargé d'Affairs in the South Sudanese embassy in Kenya, John Andruga, was the first to direct his criticism against Mbeki in April, describing his as "partisan and not credible".
"If Thabo Mbeki was dismissed by his own party in South Africa while he was president, then what do you think he has to offer for South Sudan as a mediator?" he asked.
Last week's UN resolution on Abyei urged Sudan and South Sudan to make regular use of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) in order to ensure steady progress on implementation of the June 2011 agreement.
The pact, which was signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, provides temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and the withdrawal of troops by both sides.
The UNSC urged all Member States, particularly Sudan and South Sudan, to ensure that UNISFA personell, equipment, supplies, vehicles and so on, can move unimpeded throughout the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone.