27th November 2020
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UN Security Council extends UNISFA mandate, demands resolution of Abyei issue

Author: Daniel Danis | Published: Friday, November 13, 2020

Peacekeepers assess damages caused by an armed attack on a village in Abyei. Jan 22, 2020 | Credit | Resident

The United Nations Security Council has called on Sudan and South Sudan to make more progress on border issues, as it renews the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, UNISFA, until 15 May 2021.

The 15-member council met yesterday for just 5 minutes and unanimously adopted the resolution.

They agreed to keep the authorized troop ceiling of UNISFA at 3,550 and the authorized police ceiling at 640 personnel, including 148 individual police officers and three formed police units.

The Council also maintained – for the term of the mandate extension – the Mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.

The JBVMM watches the Sudan‑South Sudan border to ensure progress on border demarcation in several specified areas.

According to a statement seen by Eye Radio, the Security Council, however, said for the last nine years, the parties have not made progress in establishing joint institutions in Abyei.

“The people of Abyei deserve to live in peace without fear of violence,” said Rodney Hunter, Political Coordinator of the U.S. Mission to the UN.

In May, the United States reminded South Sudan and Sudan not to overlook the challenges facing the people of Abyei, particularly its fragile security.

“They also deserve a functioning administration that can offer security and the rule of law. We must not lose sight of these goals.”

Between January and April, suspected Misseriya militia group attacked several villages, burnt down homes, and ambushed cars in Abyei leading to the death of more than 50 people.

The US noted that “reports of the violence and tensions in Abyei are disturbing, and the continued loss of life remains unacceptable.”

Mr. Hunter called on Sudan and South Sudan to maintain the momentum from their recent political agreements and to move forward on resolving outstanding issues in Abyei.

The Council members maintained that an exit strategy for UNISFA must be developed through dialogue among all stakeholders, with a report on options issued by March 2021.

They want an urgent establishment of temporary security and administrative arrangements that can provide a framework for lasting peace in the sensitive area.

But the Council asserted that any exit strategy of the interim forces “must account for the continued security needs of the people of Abyei.”

In the meantime, the Council demanded that the parties should provide full support to UNISFA in the deployment of personnel and promptly issue visas without discrimination as well as remove obstacles in other key areas.

It also demanded that the parties allow and facilitate all needed humanitarian assistance, adding that such assistance should be consistent with the “UN guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, including humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.”

The United States asked the African Union to support Sudan and South Sudan in achieving further political progress, especially as they take steps to resolve the Abyei dispute and address border issues.

There have been rampant attacks on civilians in Abyei area by suspected militia, and lack of a coordinated peace efforts between the Ngok Dinka and their Misseriya counterparts.

UNISFA recently said it is saddened that attacks are happening in Abyei despite efforts to promote peaceful coexistence between the communities.

The Mission warned that it will not hesitate to place responsibility on those who are bent on upsetting the peace in the Area.

In June, a new force commander, Major General Kefyalew Amde Tessema of the Ethiopia Defence Force was appointed by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Background

The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was established through United Nations Security Council Resolution 1990 of June 27, 2011. Resolution 1990 made provision for the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to provide security and protect civilians under imminent threat of violence in the disputed border region.

UNISFA Headquarters is located in Abyei Town, the major town in the Abyei. Operationally, there are three Sectors; Sector North, Sector Central and Sector South with Sector headquarters at Diffra, Abyei town area, and Anthony respectively.

In January 2020, the force said it has increased day and night patrols in Abyei and other flash points.

It also said efforts are ongoing to engage with various interlocutors to calm tensions and avoid further attacks, including with the Abyei Area Chief Administrator.

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