UN Security Council urged to increase UN peacekeeping soldiers in Abyei

Map of Abyei Administrative Area provided by Google

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The committee formed by South Sudan president to negotiate with Sudanese government the final status of Abyei Administrative Area has requested United Nations Security Council to increase the number of UN forces in Abyei with hope to improve security

United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei is mandated by UN Security Council to provide security to people in Abyei. The area remained contested since 2011 when South Sudan seceded from Sudan and its final status is yet to be determined.

The request to increase the number of UN peace-keeping troops came during a meeting held between UN security council visiting delegation and the committee in Juba last week.

“There are some people who demand the withdrawal of UNISFA troops from the area, or the reduction of the number of forces. And we said no and added that what is required is to increase the number of the force personnel on the ground to be able to cover the entire box,” Deng Biong is the spokesperson of the committee told Abyei FM on Monday.

The area has witnessed violence. The latest attack left 12 people dead in Dunguop village in May, 2021.

“Like the Ethiopian forces now deployed in the region, if they become many in number, the enemy or criminals who intend to attack the region will fear the numbers of the forces present,” he said.

Biong also asked the UN security council through its visiting delegation to push Sudan to allow the operationalization of Athony Airport, saying, it will ease operation of UNISFA. The facility located Southwest of Abyei Town is completed but has not been in use.

The committee entreated the UN security council to push Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the issue of Abyei. President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir has constituted a high-level committee composed of ten members headed by the Presidential Adviser Tut Gatluak and deputized by the Minister of East African Affairs Deng Alor Kuol to initiate talks with the Sudanese government on the final status of the Abyei Administrative Area

Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended war between South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – SPLM/A and Khartoum regime gives Abyei residents right to choose whether to remain part of Sudan or join South Sudan. The polls were to be held together with South Sudan referendum but were foiled by dispute over voters’ eligibility.

In 2013, Ngok Dinka people, the indigenous of Abyei conducted a unilateral referendum and voted in favor of becoming part of South Sudan but neither Khartoum nor Juba recognized their choice.  

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Review and Strategic Team, Graham Maitland is quoted by Radio Tamazuj as saying: “The mission here is to listen to the South Sudanese perspective in terms of what the security council had asked the Secretary-General and the secretariat to do which is dealing with the strategic review of UNSFA in the context of very good and positive improvements and dynamics in the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan that we have all seen in the last few years.”