Security Council establishes Abyei mission

29 Jun 2011

Security Council establishes Abyei mission

27 June 2011 - The Security Council established today a UN peacekeeping force for the disputed Abyei area, which has been the scene of renewed fighting in recent weeks.

Violence and looting broke out in Abyei town after northern troops took control of the area last month, displacing tens of thousands of people, just weeks before Southern Sudan formally separates from the rest of the country on 9 July.

Last week representatives from the Government of Sudan and their counterparts from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) agreed on temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and withdrawal of troops from both sides.

Sudanese troops will be replaced for an initial six months by the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which was set up by the Council today and will be made up of Ethiopian troops.

UNISFA is mandated by today's resolution to ensure the area is demilitarized from any forces other than those of the UN and Abyei Police Service, provide de-mining assistance and assist with delivery of aid and free movement of humanitarian personnel.

The Council took its decision "recognizing that the current situation in Abyei demands an urgent response and constitutes a threat to international peace and security," according to the text.

The Force has been authorized – under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – to take "necessary actions" to protect UN and UNISFA personnel, facilities, installations and equipment. It is also to safeguard civilians in Abyei under imminent threat of physical violence and the area from incursions by unauthorized elements.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, who recently toured Abyei as part of a visit to Sudan, said some simple thatch-roofed houses in the area were still smouldering when she was there, and looters still roaming among ruins in the presence of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

"All the civilians are gone," she told reporters in the national capital Khartoum. "The utter devastation I saw in Abyei was a chilling warning of what might become of the border area."

"A military solution to the conflict in the border is not an option," stated Ms. Kang. "The recent agreement regarding Abyei is encouraging, but a broader political solution will be necessary to stem the current conflict in Southern Kordofan and to prevent it from spreading further."

UN officials have also been calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan State, where northern forces have been fighting with the Sudan People's Liberation Army in recent weeks.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that information it had received indicated continued air strikes and artillery shelling by the SAF in Southern Kordofan.

Due to the security situation, OCHA added, it was difficult to verify reports or properly assess the overall impact of ongoing military operations on civilians. Estimates by UN agencies and aid groups suggest that at least 73,000 people have been displaced throughout central and eastern parts of South Kordofan due to fighting.

Humanitarian partners are still unable to freely access civilians in Kadugli, the main town in South Kordofan, including 7,000 people who were instructed by local authorities to return to town after having sought refuge near the UN compound.

"Access to this group for monitoring and needs assessment continues to be denied, despite clear indications that authorities used coercion to expedite returns," OCHA said in an update.

The World Food Programme and its local partners have distributed food to 42,000 vulnerable people in the area and are prioritizing distributions to locations expected to be inaccessible when the rainy season starts. In addition, UNICEF provided essential medicines and supported mobile clinics in the area.