A joint military force from Sudan’s northern and southern regions would begin patrolling the restive Abyei region today (Monday) to help ease brewing tensions there. The joint military force is part of a recent security arrangement signed between President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The military agreement is reportedly the first step in the full implementation of the Abyei Protocol, which would ensure equitable distribution of oil wealth among others. This comes after President Bashir agreed with South Sudan’s President Salva Kirr to invite international arbitrators to solve the Abyei dispute, which many feared could undermine the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south and plunge the country into another civil war.

Yasser Arman is the spokesman for the SPLM. From the capital, Khartoum he tells reporter Peter Clottey that South Sudan wants peace in the Abyei region.

“This is part of a security arrangement, which we signed recently as part of the implementations of the Abyei protocol. We agreed we set up on joint battalion from a joined integrated unit, which is going to be based in Abyei administrative area. And when they are going to be deployed, all the forces from the Sudan Armed Forces or the SPLA, they have to quit the area and to be deployed outside the administrative area of Abyei,” Arman noted.

He said the joint military force, which would patrol the oil-rich Abyei area would help bring down tensions in the region.

“It will help. It is not an isolated action. It is part of a package whereby we are going to have a security arrangement composed of one battalion from the joint integrated unit, and the UN force would be free in its movement and the local police. And then we are going to establish an administration according to the terms of the Abyei protocol in the CPA where the chair of the administration would be from the SPLM and his deputy is going to come from the National Congress. And that would allow the IDP’s (internally displaced persons) to return to their respective places. All these are part of the package including wealth sharing formula, which we reached recently,” he said.

Arman said the joint military force would be a permanent feature in the Abyei region to help resolve the impasse in the region.

“It is supposed to be a lasting security arrangement, and it is supposed to prepare the grounds for the coming of the civil populations back after the destructions of Abyei towns and villages. And it is supposed to be also part of packaged which we reached until there would be arbitration on the demarcation of the final borders of the Abyei area,” Arman pointed out.

He said the move would significantly help in the full implementation of the Abyei Protocol.

“It definitely would help in the implementation of the Abyei Protocol… in fact it is the first part to prepare the ground and to provide security to the citizens to come back to the area, and for the establishment of the new administration,” he said.

Arman said the SPLM welcomes the move although there could be possible challenges.

 “We are satisfied we negotiated this deal. We are satisfied with the deal, but we are only worried that there are some voices in the media from certain sectors, which are not satisfied with the deal. But we are going to honor our commitment, and we are for the deal to be implemented,” Arman noted.