South Sudan rejects replacement of Ethiopian force in Abyei UN peacekeeping mission

Peacekeepers working for the UN in Abyei pose for a photo with Abyei Chief Administrator Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol in a ceremony held in Rumajak to award medals to the Ethiopian peacekeepers in September, 2021 | Photo credit: Abyei Area Administration. | AIRS 2021

The government of South Sudan has rejected the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei.

Sudan has been pushing for the replacement of the Ethiopian soldiers in UNISFA. Sudan and Ethiopia have border disputes thought to have triggered the demand for exit of Ethiopian force from Abyei.

In a press release seen by Abyei FM on Monday, South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation says it does not concur with withdrawal.

“In this context, the government of the republic of South Sudan would like to make it clear that it does not concur with the call for withdrawal of the Ethiopian contingent of the UNISFA as this force continues to fulfil its mandate professionally and impartially,” the statement says.

It states that the issue of the final status of Abyei requires a political solution. The government acknowledged the suffering of people of Abyei.

“The people of Abyei have suffered enormously over the years with tens of thousands having been displaced from most of their villages north and east of Abyei town. The need to end their plight could not be more imperative,” it continues.

More than four thousand Ethiopian troops are deployed in Abyei to provide security to civilians there. Abyei is a disputed area with Sudan and South Sudan claiming its ownership.

According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the more than two-decade civil war in the Sudan, the people of Abyei were to vote in a referendum to decide on whether to remain part of Sudan or become part of South Sudan. However, the polls were postponed over voters’ eligibility.

In 2013, the Ngok Dinka conducted a referendum and voted to join South Sudan but the results were not recognized by Khartoum and Juba.