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UN Unhappy With Troop Levels in Oil Rich Abyei

The United Nations is reportedly concerned that remnants of troops from Sudan's army and the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM) in the restive, oil-rich Abyei region are increasing tensions. It says failure of both armies to withdraw fully from the region would not only derail implementation of the newly signed Abyei agreement, but would also cause instability and worsen the plight of displaced persons in the area. The UN is calling for a plan that would diffuse tensions in the disputed area, which it claims would enable the new Abyei agreement to be fully implemented.

The refusal of both sides to withdraw troops fully contravenes the spirit of the June roadmap, which calls for a complete demobilization. From Nairobi, Kenya, Sudan analyst Francois Grignon with the International Crisis Group tells reporter Peter Clottey that there was need for a compromise to meet the process forward.

"This is the problem related to the new Abyei agreement soon after intense fighting in May. There has been progress in the implementation of the primary withdrawal of troops till very recently -- a breakthrough political agreement on the appointment of a new administration locally. But of curse it is going to require sustained support, sustained pressure for this kind of agreement to be implemented on the ground," Grignon noted.

He said remnants of troops in the restive oil area possess serious worry to an implementation of the new Abyei agreement.

"It's always going to be a worry in Southern Sudan because you will not only have troops, which belong to the chain of command, but you will also have proxy militias and groups which have been used during the war and not necessarily follow the chain of command anymore. Or they are unhappy because they haven't been paid, and therefore they refuse to obey orders," he said.

Grignon said military forces in the restive region are not answerable to anybody.

"We are not facing two armies which are well organized, well disciplined, well trained, or well paid. We are facing on both sides, I would say, military structures, which do not necessarily have enormous cohesion, which are facing tension because of previous grievances regarding payment of salaries and preferences in the allocation of posts and commands, etcetera. So, it's always going to be a challenge until you have a fully reformed Sudan armed force. In fact, to make sure that on the ground orders are being implemented, and in fact the proxy militias and other forces do not also become the spoilers of any agreements. This is the general environment of Southern Sudan, which is dangerous for Abyei, but it is also dangerous for many other areas," Grignon pointed out.

He said the presence of the forces in the area could seriously undermine full implementation of the newly signed Abyei agreement.

"It is very important in respect that UMISS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) takes a very proactive approach in dealing with every single incidence where armed forces which were supposed to withdraw and which were supposed to regroup did not do it. If UNMISS do not systematically raise this issue with the political command, when orders are not being followed or agreements are not being implemented, it's a matter also of consistency.