Security Council extends Mission in Abyei for six months, enlarges UN presence

The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) is helping to keep the peace. Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish

29 May 2013 – The Security Council today extended until 30 November the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Abyei, an area contested by South Sudan and Sudan, and increased the authorized number of troops there by more than 1,100 personnel.

Today’s resolution augments the authorized strength of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) military component to 5,326, as requested by the Joint Political and Security Mechanism decision of 8 March and recommendations in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report.

In part, the troop boost is meant to provide additional resources “to support fully” the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which consists of representatives from Sudan and South Sudan, and is tasked with monitoring the security situation in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone.

After numerous delays, the Governments activated the JBVMM in March and began withdrawing their forces from the zone. UNISFA verified that during its mission on 23 March to Tishwin and the following day to Kiir Adem, which lies inside a 14 mile-wide strip of land known as the Mile 14 area, “there were no armed forces from either side in the area.”

The Security Council today welcomed these operations and called on the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to make “timely and effective” use of the JBVMM and other agreed joint mechanisms.

Sudan and South Sudan were urged through the resolution to make regular use of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee to ensure steady progress on the implementation of the 20 June 2011 agreement. The pact, signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, provides for temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei and the withdrawal of troops by both sides.

In addition, the 15-member Council welcomed the redeployment of Sudanese military and South Sudanese military and police personnel from Abyei – as called for by the UN body – and demanded that the Government of Sudan also redeploy all remaining military and police personnel from Abyei immediately and without preconditions.

Members of the Council reiterated that “the Abyei Area shall be demilitarized from any forces other than UNISFA and the Abyei Police Service.”

To further ensure compliance with Abyei’s status as a weapons-free area, the Council urged the Mission “to continue its dialogue with the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee and with the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities on effective strategies and oversight mechanisms”, particularly to urgently eliminate heavy or crew-served weapons, as well as rocket-propelled grenades.

On 4 May, an attack by ethnic Misseriya pastoralist tribesmen on the UN convoy resulted in the deaths of Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief Kuol Deng Kuol and an Ethiopian peacekeeper, while wounding two other UN blue helmets in the process. Shortly after, the Council strongly condemned that attack.

Furthermore, the Council urged all free, unhindered and expeditious movement to and from Abyei, and throughout the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone of all personnel, as well as equipment, provisions, supplies and other goods, including vehicles, aircraft, and spare parts, intended for the exclusive and official use of UNISFA.

It also demanded that the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan continue to facilitate the deployment of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), as well as the identification and clearance of mines in Abyei area and the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone.

The Council also urged full, safe and unhindered access to civilians in need of assistance and necessary facilities, in accordance with international law. As well as reiterating that UN peacekeepers should take “the necessary actions” to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, irrespective of the source of such violence.

In addition, Council members requested that the Secretary-General conduct a review of UNISFA’s configuration and assessment of the relevant risks and threats.

The UN Mission was established in June 2011 to secure the area after Sudanese troops took control of Abyei, displacing tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became an independent State after seceding from Sudan.

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