May 9, 2011 (ABYEI)- Signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on Monday agreed to the withdrawal of all unauthorised forces from the oil-rich, contested region of Abyei.
The Abyei region, on the border between north and South Sudan, has recently been subject to blood violence. There have been accusations that militias operating in the area are sponsored by the government of north Sudan. Both governments have recently increased their military presences in the region, while the fate of the region remains undecided and South Sudan is yet to officially declare its independence.
The CPA was signed by the National Congress Party (NCP) of north Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of the South in 2005. It saw the end of more than two decades of civil. A stipulation of the CPA was the right for the South Sudanese to vote on independence. In January of 2011 South Sudanese all over the world voted in favour of secession in the plebiscite. The Republic of South Sudan will be officially declared a state in February 2011.
In an attempt to prevent the tension from escalating into large scale violence, the South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir sent a high level delegation under the minister of regional cooperation, Deng Alor Kuol and Stephen Dhieu Dau, minister of trade and industry in the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) to Abyei on 8 May 2011.
Maj. Gen. Tag Eldeen Alzein Ahmed and Maj. Gen. Mac Paul Koul Awor signed the agreement to withdraw troops between 10-17 May on behalf of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) respectively in accordance with the Kadugli Agreements of 13 and 17 January 2011.
Speaking at a public briefing in Abyei town on Monday, Alor said the two parties have resolved to allow the withdrawal of illegal forces and that Joint Integrated Units (JIU) in coordination with forces belonging to the UNMIS would take charge of the Security of the area.
JIU are troops made up from the SPLA of South Sudan and the SAF from the north. The formation of the JIU was a stipulation of the CPA. It allows both signatories to maintain a military presence in the contested borderlands.
"On our side, the SPLM and GoSS remains committed to seeking an honest way to settle the issue of Abyei. The issue of Abyei must be resolved," said Alor, announcing that illicit forces in Abyei would be withdraw, with immediate effect. Alor said President Kiir has once again called on the citizens of Abyei to exercise patience, to allow the SPLM to follow the legal procedures to address unresolved differences over the area with the NCP and that “the issue of Abyei would be soon solved before independence of South Sudan".
Alor added that the delegation had come with a military technical committee to represent the South to “verify and ensure immediate withdrawal of these forces”.
UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which coordinated the process, commended the compromises reached by the two parties, to allow withdrawal from the area saying UN hopes to see commitments made by the parties are translated into action.
"This is a good start and a wise decision. We in the United Nations system commend the two parties for reaching a consensus and we hope these promises are translated into practical actions because the issue of Abyei is important in the peace process," said UNMIS Force Commander Maj. Gen. Moses Obi said in media briefing at UNMIS camp on Monday. He was chairing the Abyei Joint Technical Committee which issued a press release on the subject on 8 May.
The parties agreed to withdraw the unauthorised forces following a clash involving members of the SAF component of the JIU and local police forces over the supply of weapons, on 1 May 2011, in which 14 people were killed and several injured.
The Abyei chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol in an interview with Sudan Tribune on 5 May 2011 described the incident as a political attempt by Khartoum to invade the area.
The clash also followed Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir inflammatory remarks; he was quoted as saying Abyei belonged to the north and will remain part north. Bashir also threatened to wage against the south if the SPLM attempt to annex to Abyei and that he would not recognise South Sudan as an independent state unless it abandons of Abyei.
Abyei residents were also supposed to have a referendum in January over whether to join the north or south. Disputes over who could vote derailed the referendum and talks over the status of the region have been delayed.