A legislator representing the Abyei Administrative Area at the national parliament has accused the United Nations forces of failing to protect civilians killed by armed men in Kolom area on Wednesday.
Twenty-nine people including children were killed in a village about 12 kilometers north of Abyei town. The armed men reportedly stormed the village at around 7 AM.
According to the Area Chief Administrator, Kuol Alor those killed include eight children, some of whom were burnt alive.
Eighteen adults and nine other children were also wounded in the deadly attack.
The motive behind the killings is not known, but unconfirmed reports indicate that the suspected Misseriya were responding to the alleged killing of three of their people over the weekend.
The incident happened despite the presence of a UN Interim Security Force for Abyei.
UNISFA was deployed in June 2011 to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, and protect the Area from incursions by unauthorized elements and ensure security.
But just last month, three people were killed and three others went missing in the eastern part of Abyei.
In the same area in November, nine people were also killed and four others wounded in two separate incidents in Myadol and Dongop areas.
Also in October, one person died in a road ambush in Wunkiir Area.
The attacks continue despite the presence of UN troops and police units.
There are 3,550 soldiers, 640 police personnel, including 148 individual police officers and three formed police units deployed in Abyei.
UNISFA whose headquarters is located in Abyei town operates in three Sectors; Sector North, Sector Central and Sector South with Sector headquarters at Diffra, Abyei town area, and Athony respectively.
However, Honorable Deng Arop who represent Abyei area at the national parliament in Juba said these frequent attacks are indications that the UN forces do not provide adequate protection for the Abyei people.
He particularly blamed UNISFA for ignoring their recent warnings on an imminent attack on Kolom area.
Deng said civilians expressed fears of attacks from Misseriya armed men.
“The inhabitants of the area wanted to move, but they were assured by UNISFA that they were going to be protected – protection that never materialized,” he told Eye Radio on Thursday.
The MP said UNISFA ended up deploying only seven soldiers to protect the area resulting in death, destruction of properties and the abduction of 15 children.
“Based on the information we got, UNISFA forces – maybe seven – slept in the area, but left at around 6 AM,” he narrated.
“Then at 7:10 AM, the village was attacked. The militia surrounded the village, then moved from house to house, burning down houses. Some people were even burnt alive in the houses.”
South Sudan and Sudan are yet to agree on a joint administration, including a police force for Abyei area.
Over the years, there have also been reports of criminal activities in the disputed region, including cattle rustling, carjacking, robbery, and grenade attack in Amiet market due to lack of a joint administration.
Hon. Deng Arop called on the government of South Sudan to summon the Sudanese Ambassador in Juba and the UNISFA force commander to provide answers on the deadly attack.
“We have to register our protest with the Ambassador because they [Sudan] have refused to remove their forces at Diffra, which is called Kech, and it is at that place that all the militia from Misseriya spring to come and attack the area,” he continued.
Late last year, the Undersecretary of the UN Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, called on South Sudan and Sudan to use their new-found cordial bilateral relations to resolve the status of the Abyei region.
He said Juba’s relations with Khartoum has improved after Sudan mediated the South Sudan peace talks, and with President Salva Kiir currently mediating talks between the Sudanese Sovereign Council and armed opposition groups.
Abyei has remained a contested region between the two countries since 2005.
In July last year, President Salva Kiir handed over the Abyei area dossier to a prominent area leader, Deng Alor, to follow up on the resolution of the final status of the region.
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