13 November 2012

Sudan: UN Local Staff Member Killed By Peacekeepers As Tension Rises in Abyei

Photo: Tim McKulka/ UN Photo
Troops patrol in Abyei area (file photo).

Juba/Washington — A United Nations local staff member was accidentally killed by a peacekeeper in the contested region of Abyei following the rise of tension between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities there.

Tension is building up in Abyei following the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) of 24 October to endorse a proposal by the mediation calling for a referendum to be organised in Abyei in October next year if the two parties fail to reach an agreement on the basis of the same proposal, which excludes the participation of Misseriya nomads

Recent statements by President Omer Al-Bashir rejecting the AUPSC's decision also contributed to poison the atmosphere in the disputed area. The Misseriya are reassured by Khartoum's position and the Nogk Dinka are boosted by the African Union position.

Sudan Tribune received unverified reports from the area saying the tensions mounted on Monday evening when a group of Misseriya riding a number of buses and cars crossed Abyei heading to the town's mosque.

"They came shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great) and went straight to the mosque inside Abyei town. This irritated youth in the area and started asking how this group came. So we went to United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) to find out whether they were aware," a local source told Sudan Tribune.

The Mission told them they had no information about the group.

The source said the Ngok Dinka youth decided to go and ask the Misseriya about the reason of their coming in the town but UNISFA forces while youth were on their way to the mosque moved the group to their camp in their tanks.

On Tuesday, the Ngok Youth decided to protest the decision of the United Nations to host the group of Misseriya and asked the UN to return the Misseriya to where they came from. During this incident a UN peacekeeper accidently shot the South Sudanese national.

Reacting to the death of the UN national staff member, Ban Ki-Moon released a statement condemning "the series of incidents that occurred in Abyei in the past 48 hours" and urged the Abyei communities to return to calm and resolve their disputes through dialogue.

"The Secretary-General remains extremely concerned that the Abyei Area joint institutions, including the Police, have not yet been established and urges the parties to quickly address the issue," further said the statement.

This week, the South Sudanese agreed to form Abyei interim institutions as agreed in a deal sealed on 20 June 2011. Juba wanted assurance that Khartoum would appoint a Ngok Dinka from the membership of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party as the head of the Abyei Legislative Council.

In Juba, sources say the circumstances of the death are not clear but stressed that the UN soldiers were the only group with arms. Also, Consultations are taking place between, UN officials, Juba ,and Addis Ababa over how to investigate the incident.

Mario Kuol Monyluak, an SPLM official in Abyei regretted the recent incident saying they are in contact with Juba to contain the situation and prevent further deterioration.

"It is an unfortunate development but we are confident that it will be handled," he said, expressing hopes that "the UNISFA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission, and I have the utmost confidence in the force commander and the men and women of the UNISFA who work every day to keep our area safe," Monyluak told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir reiterated last week Khartoum's rejection of AUPSC's decision, saying that Abyei is a Sudanese territory and nobody can decide how to conduct the referendum there. He added that any amendment to the Abyei referendum law can only be voted on by Sudan's National Assembly.

Local sources from Abyei claim that the Sudanese army is massing troops in Kej (Difra), Lenger, and Magenes, which are all areas inside territory of the Ngok Dinka as per the ruling of the permanent court of Arbitration. Also Misseriya are accused of behaving violently with Ngok Dinka in the northern parts of Abyei.

On Wednesday 14 November, UN Security Council will hold a consultation meeting about South Sudan, Sudan developments. The incident is expected to be discussed between the 15 members of the council.

Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie arrived in Pretoria, to brief South African officials about the position of his government from the AUPSC decision. Also Vice President Al-Haj Adam Youssef met Tuesday with a delegation of NCP members of the Dinka Ngok to assess the recent developments in the area.

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