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Report of the Secretary-General on Situation in Abyei (S/2018/923) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 32 of Security Council resolution 2416 (2018), in which the Council requested to be informed of progress in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). It covers the period since the issuance of my previous report (S/2018/293), from 30 March to 7 October 2018, and should be read in conjunction with my letter to the Council dated 20 August (S/2018/778), in which I provided detailed reconfiguration recommendations, and the briefing of my Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations of 20 September, 1 in which he updated the Council on the efforts that the Governments of the Sudan and South Sudan had made towards implementing the steps outlined in Council resolution 2412 (2018).

II. Abyei

A. Security situation

  1. During the reporting period, insecurity in the Abyei Area related mainly to intercommunal clashes linked to the migration of the Misseriya through the Area and to the Amiet common market and weak rule of law. During the annual migration in 2018, an estimated 37,000 Misseriya pastoralists arrived in the Abyei Area then returned northwards between May and June, following the onset of the rainy season. Some pastoralists continued to remain in northern Abyei Area, because of the stable security situation, opportunities afforded by the Amiet common market and the increased access to water through quick-impact and humanitarian projects. Intercommunal relations improved through the proactive engagement of UNISFA with the communities and its robust military posture, particularly along flashpoints. Consequently, the communities have stayed within the agreed areas to avoid conflict, no longer necessitating the disengagement line first instituted by UNISFA three years ago to prevent large-scale intercommunal violence during the migration season.

  2. Notwithstanding those improvements, intercommunal tension and violence around the Amiet common market persisted owing to the population influx to the Abyei Area and the presence of different communities trading at the market, including Darfuris, Nuer and nationals of neighbouring countries. On 27 June, two Ngok Dinka were shot dead by unidentified gunmen, believed to be Misseriya, at Wut Amath, Sector Centre. In what seemed to be a retaliatory act, on 11 July, nine armed men attacked a group of Misseriya returning from the market along the Todach-Goli road, Sector North. One Misseriya was killed and three were injured. On 15 July, one Ngok Dinka was shot dead at Dungop, Sector South, by armed men, allegedly Misseriya.

  3. Tensions between the Misseriya and Nuer entering into the Abyei Area from Unity State, South Sudan, were largely centred around the south-east of the Area. On 17 April, three Misseriya and one Nuer were killed at Dem Dem, on the MayomMarial Achak road, Sector South. A vehicle belonging to a Nuer was also burned during the incident. On 11 May, armed men suspected to be Nuer attacked Misseriya herdsmen at Myordol, near Marial Achak, Sector South, resulting in three fatalities. The reason for the attack was not established. The period also witnessed clashes between Ngok Dinka and Nuer when, on 27 April, a Nuer was prevented by a Ngok Dinka from driving through the Amiet common market. Shortly thereafter, Nuer men mobilized and attacked Ngok Dinka, resulting in minor injuries to three persons.

  4. Some intracommunal clashes also occurred during the reporting period, owing to weak rule of law and ineffective criminal and justice systems. On 5 April, within the Misseriya Awlad Kamil community at Dawas, Sector North, two persons were reported killed. There followed another clash on 6 April within the Misseriya Awlad Kamil community at Um Khaer market, Sector North, in which one person was stabbed and six others were beaten. On 20 April, armed men attacked a vehicle belonging to an international non-governmental organization (NGO) polio vaccination team at Tajelei, Sector South. In the attack, the driver was killed and three people were wounded. On 18 May, a national staff driver for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was arrested and detained at a community protection committee security check point at the Amiet common market over a misunderstanding with the Dinka staff at the check post. A UNISFA armed escort intervened and the driver was released. On 4 September, Ngok Dinka subtribal groups clashed with each other at the market, resulting in injuries to two persons.

  5. Several security incidents related to cattle rustling. On 8 April, Misseriya men rustled 51 goats from the Ngok Dinka in Mabok, Sector South. Of those, 34 were retrieved and returned to their owner. On 15 April, unidentified armed men rustled 200 Misseriya cattle at Atay-2, near Marial Achak, Sector South. Of those, 160 were recovered. On 1 May, eight unidentified men rustled 70 goats at gunpoint at Wunrouk, Sector South. The goats were later located at Makuac Alrbek, Sector South, and returned to their owner. On 16 August, a group of armed men believed to be Misseriya from the Awlad Kamil tribe rustled 31 cattle from Ngok Dinka herdsmen at Mirok, Sector Center. The cattle were recovered at Sink and El Shamam, Sector North, after the rustlers abandoned them to avoid being apprehended by UNISFA troops.

  6. While the current military threat to the Abyei Area remains limited, the presence of armed groups has the potential to inflame tensions between the communities. There were nine sightings by the local population of armed men around Noong and Mulmul in Sector Centre and in Sector South, at Abyen Theny, Bokchop, Wunduop, Bachuol Malual and Abathok. Most sightings were between the Amiet common market and Abyei town and along the rivers, in Nymora and Kiir/Bahr-al-Arab. In two instances, UNISFA apprehended individuals suspected of belonging to the Sudan People ’s Liberation Army and other armed groups within the Abyei Area. On 30 March, a suspected Sudan People’s Liberation Army soldier was arrested by UNISFA at the market. The suspect claimed he had been an officer of the Army but was currently a trader. The next morning, the suspect escaped from the Amiet common market detention centre. On 5 June, six persons suspected of being members of an armed group were arrested and detained at Goli, Sector North. On 15 June, following an investigation, the suspects were escorted to Farouk, Sector North, where they boarded a vehicle to El Muglad, Western Kordofan, the Sudan. In September, two reports were received of armed men from Twic State, South Sudan, entering into southern Abyei Area on 16 September and 27 September. The reports could not be verified as the roads were inaccessible because of rain. The occasional presence of South Sudanese armed men in the Abyei Area and the continued presence of Sudanese police at the Diffra oil complex in Sector North remained in direct violation of the Agreement between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei Area (the Agreement of 20 June 2011).

  7. In order to maintain relative calm in the Abyei Area, the UNISFA military component continued to maintain a robust deterrent posture, with day and night patrols. UNISFA also ensured security through the implementation of its conflict prevention and mitigation strategy; an enhanced presence in vulnerable areas, including flashpoints, such as water sites, villages adjoining rivers and the Amiet common market; the deployment of static patrols at the market and observation posts at the four watch towers; and the confiscation of weapons. More than a dozen join t security committee meetings were held each week throughout the area to provide an early warning capability and a quick response to the presence of armed groups. Furthermore, an early warning system was instituted involving the local authorities and village heads to improve the collection of information and provide a quick response by a dedicated quick-reaction force/team designated in all Sectors.

  8. During the reporting period, UNISFA conducted 19,022 day and night patrols and 6,284 escort patrols. Given that the Abyei Police Service had not been established, the UNISFA police component continued its efforts to support the maintenance of law and order, with 12 or 13 joint military and police observation patrols per day throughout the Abyei Area, including interaction with community protection committees, traditional authorities and local community members. With the prevailing rainy season, special aerial patrols were conducted in addition to the regular weekly aerial patrols to monitor inaccessible waterlogged areas. From August, the national monitors of South Sudan and the Sudan have also accompanied the aerial patrols.

  9. UNISFA continued its efforts to keep the Abyei Area weapons-free. On 26 June, a UNISFA patrol confiscated an assault rifle, four magazines and 20 rounds of ammunition from a Misseriya man near Marial Achak, Sector South. On 3 July, United Nations police handed him to the Government of the Sudan through the Sudanese national monitors, as witnessed by Misseriya traditional leaders. Furthermore, on 15 August, the Diffra oil police handed over three rocket-propelled grenades and one fragmentation grenade to the UNISFA Sector North battalion at Diffra, that it alleged had been fired at an oil installation. The grenades were then disposed of by the United Nations Mine Action Service.

  10. During the period, the United Nations Mine Action Service continued to enable UNISFA operations in the Abyei Area through the removal of explosive remnants of war and by delivering risk education. It assessed 17,116 m2 as safe from explosive hazards and collected and destroyed 47 explosive remnants of war and 171 rounds of ammunition. It maintained the mission’s storage facility for the weapons and ammunition confiscated by UNISFA troops in line with its standard operating procedures. It continued to deliver mine risk education to the Abyei population, not only in central and southern Abyei, but also for the first time in northern Abyei, the latter through a partnership with a local Sudanese NGO. In total during the reporting period, 39,087 people (14,866 boys, 12,546 girls, 6,328 men and 5,347 women) were given mine risk education in 1,081 sessions. Teams from the Mine Action Service also distributed 18,044 school bags equipped with school accessories and mine risk education materials to schools throughout northern, central and southern Abyei.