News / Africa

UN Authorizes Peacekeeping Troops for Abyei Region

A gunner from Zambia serving with the international peacekeeping operation is seen on an armored personnel carrier during a patrol in the region of Abyei, central Sudan, May 30, 2011
A gunner from Zambia serving with the international peacekeeping operation is seen on an armored personnel carrier during a patrol in the region of Abyei, central Sudan, May 30, 2011
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Larry Freund

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the deployment of up to 4,200 peacekeeping troops to the disputed Abyei region between north and south Sudan.

All 15 members of the Security Council agreed to the establishment, for six months, of an Abyei peacekeeping force made up of Ethiopian troops.  Adoption of the resolution follows the June 20 agreement by Sudan and south Sudan that calls for the complete demilitarization of Abyei and deployment of a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping force.

Monday's resolution says the troops will monitor and verify the redeployment of the north's Sudan Armed Forces and troops loyal to the south, who have been fighting for weeks.  After the redeployment from Abyei, according to the U.N., the region will be demilitarized except for the peacekeepers and the Abyei Police Service.

The peacekeepers are also authorized to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. In addition, the resolution asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ensure that effective human rights monitoring is carried out in Abyei.

Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, told reporters the Security Council resolution is a step forward, but he said it is not a substitute for a final settlement on Abyei.  Asked about the timing of the withdrawal of north Sudanese troops from Abyei, the ambassador said it will happen as soon as the Ethiopian troops are deployed in the area.

“We will fully respect the provisions of this resolution and the other party also, they have demonstrated that they will fully respect the provision, which calls for the demilitarization," he said.

The deputy U.N. representative of Britain, Philip Parham, said it is important now, in advance of south Sudan’s independence on July 9, to resolve all the outstanding issues under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the status of Abyei. “There are a number of key issues under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which still remain unresolved - the status of Abyei’s borders, citizenship, oil revenues and so on. To the extent they remain unresolved, the potential for tensions is obviously that much greater," he said.

France’s ambassador said the peacekeeping mandate is “robust” and noted that the resolution calls on the parties to facilitate the return of displaced persons.  Tens of thousands of Abyei residents fled southward after northern forces seized control of the region on May 21.

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