Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the agreement in Sudan to demilitarize the disputed area of Abyei, over which the national Government and the Southern Sudan administration have engaged in fresh warfare.
Representatives from the Government of Sudan and their counterparts from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), representing Southern Sudan, today in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, reached an agreement that provides for temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and the withdrawal of troops from both sides.
Sudanese armed forces will be replaced by an Interim Security Force for Abyei (ISFA) to be made up of Ethiopian troops.
“The Secretary-General calls on the parties to abide in full by its provisions to demilitarize the area and establish an administration and police service and to provide their full cooperation to the United Nations and Government of Ethiopia in deploying peacekeeping troops and police to the area,” Mr. Ban said of the agreement.
He thanked the African Union (AU) High Level Panel under former South African president Thabo Mbeki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for brokering the agreement with the support of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Mr. Ban pledged the UN’s full support to both parties to facilitate implementation of the pact.
The Secretary-General urged both parties to continue to provide their full cooperation to the AU in its efforts to mediate a settlement of all outstanding issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that they signed in 2005 to end two decades of civil war. He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan state where the two parties are also engaged in fighting.
Southern Sudan will become an independent State on 9 July following a referendum in January in which southerners voted overwhelmingly to secede from the rest of Sudan.
Provisions of today’s agreement on Abyei will not prejudge the final status of the disputed area, whose borders were defined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2009.
The Abyei Area Administration created under the new agreement shall consist of a Chief Administrator, a Deputy Chief Administrator and five heads of department. “In each instance, the nominating party shall make three nominations for each position, which the other party must agree on one,” according to the text of the agreement.
“With the exception of ISFA, the Abyei Area shall be demilitarized. Any SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] and SPLA [Sudan People Liberation Army] shall redeploy out of the Area. Henceforth, all other forces, apart from the ISFA shall remain outside the boundaries of Abyei Area, as defined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” the agreement states.
Sudanese government troops entered Abyei and seized the territory on 21 May after months of skirmishes with the SPLA, sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing from the area.
“All displaced former residents of Abyei have the right to return to their former places of residence,” according to the agreement, which also requires that both parties ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.
Meanwhile, UNMIS reported that the security and humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan state remains of great concern with a military build-up continuing in various strategic locations.
In Kauda, the mission said that the SAF yesterday dropped at least seven bombs about 500 metres from the airstrip. No casualties were reported.
In a statement to the Security Council today, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the head of the Southern Sudan mission to the UN, warned that the situation in Southern Kordofan “risks degenerating into ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.”
UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have distributed food to 31,500 people in Southern Kordofan, but access to all the conflict-affected areas remains critical to ensure urgent delivery of relief aid to the displaced population.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update that its partners are in discussions with the parties to the conflict to establish a “humanitarian corridor” in Southern Kordofan, with regular schedules of convoys shuttling between the state’s capital, Kadugli, and El-Obeid, in Northern Kordofan.
The UN World Health Organization has provided one month worth of essential drugs to the two mobile clinics operating near the UNMIS compound in Kadugli, while the water and sanitation humanitarian cluster said that 20,000 litres of drinking water are being supplied to displaced people in around UNMIS base.
UNICEF has been screening children around the UNMIS compound for malnutrition, and has distributed high-energy biscuits to those who need them. The agency and a local partner have distributed 1,500 pieces of plastic sheeting to the displaced population, according to OCHA.