|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6679th Meeting (AM)
Without Resumption of Talks, Fragile Sudan-South Sudan Border Situation Could Lead
to Violence with Regional Impact, Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council
Representatives of Both Governments Underscore Respective Good Intentions
The fragile security situation along the border of Sudan and South Sudan required the prompt return of both parties to the negotiating table to prevent a further descent into violence that could impact the whole region, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today.
“Many of the ostensibly procedural problems currently faced by [the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei] UNISFA, from disagreements over the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration to the withdrawal of armed forces from the area, are indicative of the lack of trust between the parties,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said during his briefing on the situation in Abyei.
Urging the Council to engage both Sudan and South Sudan on the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate, the long-term status of Abyei and the resolution of all outstanding issues between them, he said the continuing presence of their respective armed forces in the area contravened the Agreement on the Abyei Area, signed on 20 June. A deadlock over the selection of candidates to run the yet-to-be-established Abyei Area Administration had exacerbated the situation, he added. Migration and the current rainy season presented further challenges, he said, adding that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had reported that displaced populations were anxious to return to their villages despite the ongoing presence of the Sudanese Armed Forces.
Mr. Ladsous said current logistical challenges in supporting the Mission’s deployment and operations included long supply chains from Port Sudan and South Sudan, constraints on the operational availability of a logistics space and gaps in essential support personnel, he said. Amid those challenges, however, UNISFA had managed to establish a security “umbrella” in Abyei due to its widespread presence in the surrounding area and a rapid-response capacity, combined with intense patrolling and joint security assessments with both communities.
He noted that the Mission had recovered and disposed of 100 pieces of unexploded ordnance and landmines in advance of a dedicated United Nations Mine Action capacity, he said, urging the Sudanese Armed Forces to provide assistance or maps of their mined locations. Describing the presence of arms among migrating populations as a concern due to the lack of inter-community negotiations on migration, he said UNISFA had taken steps to prevent armed militias from entering Abyei town, including round-the-clock checkpoints and direct engagement with both communities to reduce tensions over resources and arms.
Regarding lingering border-security concerns, he said the establishment of a joint border-monitoring mechanism would build confidence between the two parties by verifying reports of violations by their respective armed forces. It was important that Council members urged the parties to reach agreement on mapping the border zone, under the auspices of African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, he stressed.
Following the briefing, Sudan’s representative said that South Sudan had obstructed the process to establish the Abyei Area Administration. It had also escalated tensions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States by supporting, with funds and arms, the rebellious Revolution Front, a coalition known for its intention to topple the Government of Sudan through armed action.
Stressing the need to replace hostile actions and arguments with strong ties of negotiation and cooperation, he said that proof of his country’s intentions could be seen in its having permitted the transportation of South Sudan’s oil exports through Sudanese territories and ports without charge. “What has Sudan got in return?” he asked. “The reward was the exporting of rebellion and attacking the territorial integrity of Sudan.”
South Sudan’s representative emphasized that his country was “willing and ready to continue serious negotiations”, but it was incumbent upon Sudan to ensure the full withdrawal of its troops from the Abyei Area. It was Sudan that had scuppered the selection of candidates for the Abyei Area Administration by nominating an individual who did not fit the requirements of the Abyei Protocol to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, he said. The proposed Administration must be established quickly, he stressed, adding that the Government of South Sudan was ready to do what it could to that end.
Saying he was concerned about the fate of more than 110,000 displaced persons, he expressed regret that Sudan had denied access for an assessment by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and requested the Council to ensure that the monitoring of human rights would be allowed to take place. South Sudan remained committed to the successful border-security agreements of 29 June and 30 July, he said, calling upon Sudan to join in a move to demarcate borders and reach final agreement on the five contested areas.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.
For this morning’s meeting, Council members had before them the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei (document S/2011/741), dated 27 November 2011, which provides an update on the deployment and operations of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) since the Secretary-General’s report of 29 September 2011.
The report says the Secretary-General is encouraged that five months after UNISFA’s establishment, more than two thirds of the authorized troops are on the ground and the Mission is in a position to secure the Abyei Area. However, he is deeply concerned that the parties have yet to live up to their commitments under the 20 June Agreement on the Abyei Area. The continued presence of security forces from both sides, particularly the Sudanese Armed Forces positions in the Area, poses a threat to the safe migration of Misseriya nomads and the return of Ngok Dinka refugees, he says, emphasizing that the situation is untenable and that it adds to the already considerable tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.
According to the report, the security situation is especially worrying in light of the annual southward migration of Misseriya nomads through the Abyei Area, which has already started. “Given existing tensions between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities, frustrations over the continuing presence of armed forces and the lack of large-scale returns of displaced persons and the fact that the Misseriya will be crossing an international border, I am concerned that the this year’s migration will be particularly sensitive,” the Secretary-General says.
While UNISFA is making strides in providing security and helping to mitigate the tensions, the report notes, it is incumbent upon the two Governments to establish conditions for a peaceful migration, not only through Abyei, but throughout their common border. Dialogue between the communities on sharing resources and minimizing arms is also essential and must be encouraged by all stakeholders. “In this context it is clear that while UNISFA is already making strides to implement its mandate, the continuation and consolidation of its presence will be essential to build on its achievements and held stabilize Abyei,” the Secretary-General says.
The report goes on to express the Secretary-General’s great concern over the broader political context, defined by a lack of progress on pending issues, ongoing fighting in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, reported military build-ups by both countries along the border, reports of aerial bombardment in border areas and accusations of support for opposition armed groups. “In this context, the establishment of the joint border-monitoring mechanism agreed by the parties on 29 June and 30 July, including a 20-kilometre-wide demilitarized border zone, is essential to help address existing tensions and restore confidence,” the Secretary-General concludes.
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