Khartoum and Juba agree to maintain security in Abyei region

Thursday February 20 2020

Peacekeeper troops from Ethiopia and deployed in the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei patrol outside Abyei town on December 14, 2016. PHOTO | ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN | AFP

Peacekeeper troops from Ethiopia and deployed in the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei patrol outside Abyei town on December 14, 2016. PHOTO | ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN | AFP 

MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
By MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
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Sudan and South Sudan have reached a formal arrangement for joint security management of the troubled Abyei region, so as to prevent further bloodshed.

After the Joint Security Political Committee meeting between the two countries on Wednesday, the two sides said they would coordinate the movement of people and security.

The Committee was created last month after local rebel groups attacked civilians, killing more than a dozen and injuring several others.

In Juba, the issues of identifiable crossings between the two countries, security details and a programme for the actual border demarcation were some of the issues considered as long-term solutions to the violence.

Abyei lies on the estimated border flow between South Sudan and Sudan and is one of the issues that have not been determined since Juba seceded from Khartoum in 2011.

In the meantime, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (Unisfa) was created to act as a peacekeeping force. But as other blue-helmet UN forces, the troops are non-combat missions, which means they are legally barred from battling rebels and must only work as guards for civilians. 

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On Wednesday, Sudanese Chief of General Staff Muhammad Othman Al-Hussein said that the meeting also received two reports from Unisfa about the events in Abyei during the past two months, where several people on both sides of the border were killed.

Al-Hussein said they discussed enforcing the decisions the committee made in its previous meetings and the completion of procedures for the phase crossings that were stipulated in those decisions.

His South Sudanese counterpart Lieutenant General Gabriel Gook said that achieving long-lasting peace between Sudan and South Sudan in Abyei could be a long journey but the two sides are working on a solution.

“There is no other option but to implement the agreements,” he said referring to what the Committee had proposed.

Abyei residents were in the process of deciding their fate in a referendum in July 2011 on whether to join South Sudan or Sudan under a South-North peace agreement, but violence prevented the holding of the referendum.

The oil-rich Abyei region obtained a special status within the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between Sudan and South Sudan in 2005, which eventually led to the South's secession in 2011 after a referendum.

The UN force, Unisfa, was established in June 2011, and is charged with monitoring the border of Sudan and South Sudan, and is permitted to use force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in Abyei.

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