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6 Month Extension of UNIFSA Mandate Welcomed

Peacekeeper troops from Ethiopia and deployed in the United Nations (UN) Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) patrol at night in Abyei town, Abyei state, on December 14, 2016.
Peacekeeper troops from Ethiopia and deployed in the United Nations (UN) Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) patrol at night in Abyei town, Abyei state, on December 14, 2016.

Alor Koul, chief administrator for Abyei, reacted positively Monday to word that the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate for Abyei for six months, but cautioned that renewing the U.N. mandate will not alone solve the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over who controls the area.

According to Koul, what is required is a strong political decision by the governments of both countries to determine the final status of the area.

“We urge the two countries to expedite their discussions over the issues of Abyei so that the final status of Abyei is determined before the end of this mandate. And this is what we really want as the people of Abyei,” Koul told South Sudan in Focus.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and urged Khartoum, Juba and local communities to take all necessary steps to ensure that the area is effectively demilitarized and to fully cooperate with UNISFA.

The Council emphasized that the Abyei area will be demilitarized from any forces, as well as local armed militias. The only military allowed will be UNISFA and the Abyei Police Service.

Sudan’s transitional government reiterated its commitment to strengthen cooperation with UNISFA and the government of South Sudan to fully implement provisions outlined in the Abyei protocol.

General Abdulfatah Al Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, said Sudanese leaders are ready to cooperate with authorities to resolve the dispute over Abyei.

“We have discussed a lot of issues related to elevating more cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan, especially the issue of peaceful coexistence in the area. We also discussed how to strengthen cooperation for the establishment of a joint mechanism between the two countries, based on the previous agreement signed by both sides,” said Al Burhan.

Several attacks and counter attacks have been reported in the Abyei region over the past three months. More than 50 people have been killed, including women and children. Both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya Arab nomads have blamed each other for the deadly clashes.

Mukhtar Babo Nimir, a paramount chief of the Sudanese Misseriya tribe, insisted that the Misseryia have responded in self-defense to attacks from the Ngok Dinka. But he said he regretted loss of life on both sides.

“Any disagreement among ourselves, our people will be affected. Even if one person is killed, we will be held responsible about this. We are supposed to live as one people, we have vast land that all of us can occupy. Our ancestors lived together for hundreds of years, and yet they were not educated. Why can’t we live together as one people?” Nimir told South Sudan in Focus.

Yousif Malok, who is from the Ngok Dinka, and heads the Abyei Civil Society in Sudan, said he is not optimistic about UNISFA’s role in the region, saying the U.N. mission failed in the past to protect lives and property in the Abyei area.

“Our opinion is that UNISFA has failed in fulfilling its mandate. Now, when this mandate is again renewed, we wonder whether they are the same forces or something has been added to their mandate to protect local civilians. Are they empowered now to fulfil all their mandates that they have failed to carry out during the past?” asked Malok.

Under the terms of U.N. resolution 2519, the Council extended the mandate for activities in the area bordering Sudan and South Sudan and reiterated its demand for both countries to provide full support for the mission, including removing any obstacles hindering efforts to protect civilians.

The Security Council first authorized the deployment of a peacekeeping force to Abyei in June 2011 following renewed violence, escalating tensions and population displacement in the area as Southern Sudan prepared to formally declare its independence from the Sudan.