South Sudan

Abyei community asks South to redeploy after UN force fails to protect them

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February 27, 2013 (JUBA) - Members of the Abyei community called on South Sudan’s to redeploy forces to the disputed border area on Wednesday as Juba accused neigbouring Sudan, of sponsoring the theft of 489 heads of cattle on Sunday evening.

The status of Abyei is one of the main outstanding issues that Sudan and South Sudan have not resolved since the latter’s secession in 2011.

South Sudan minister of information and broadcasting Service, Barnaba Marial said there had been "reports of Sudanese army building up troops and reinforcing the strength" of their forces in the area.

As per United Nations Security Council resolution 2046 issued in 2011 after Sudanese forces took control of Abyei by force ahead of South Sudan’s independence, both forces are supposed to have unconditionally withdrawn from the area.

Sudan has kept forces around oil fields in the north of Abyei but the exact numbers of which are unknown.

The African Union has proposed that the referendum to decide the fate of Abyei be held in October this year - it was originally scheduled for January 2011 - but again the sticking point is Khartoum’s insistence that the nomadic Misseriya tribe participate despite not living in the area all year round.

“What is happening in the area will jeopardize peace efforts and the United Nations Interim Security forces for Abyei should take charge and operate as an independent international peacekeeping force mandated by the two parties and the Security Council”, Marial said.

Minister Marial, who is the government’s official spokesperson, called on UNISFA to diligently discharge it duties and to recover cattle raided from members of the Ngok Dinka.

“We have received reports from the area that more than 400 heads of cattle have been raided. The government of Sudan is behind this activity. It is using the militia to raid the area while it continues to build up troops and reinforcing the strengths of those supposed to have been withdrawn. It is not respecting resolution 2046 of the Security Council of the United Nations which calls for unconditional withdrawal of the armed forces from the area, which we responded and withdrew our forces without any condition but it refused to observe”, he said.

The minister made the remarks at the premises of the ministry of information following a visit by Abyei community leaders with a message calling on the government to consider redeploying troops to the area, claiming UNISFA was no longer providing protection to the citizens in the area.

"The situation remains tense and UN peacekeepers in Abyei are not doing anything at all to protect civilians and their properties. They allow Misseriya to come to the area with guns. They allow Sudanese armed forces to increase the number of their forces in the area and they allow cows to be taken away in their presence by militia groups sponsored by the government of Sudan. The whole intention is to discourage our people from returning home so that they can continue with their plans to settle Misseriya in the area”, Acuil Akol, said on Wednesday.

Acuil is the leader of an Abyei community delegation currently visiting Juba from the area and he described the situation in the region as tense and volatile because the government of Sudan has started to forcefully settle members of the Misseriya in the area.