Ethiopian forces leave disputed Abyei area on Sudan request

Wednesday August 25 2021
Peacekeeping troops

Peacekeeping troops from Ethiopia deployed by the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei. PHOTO | AFP


The Sudanese government on Tuesday announced that the United Nations (UN) has agreed to withdraw its Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed in Abyei, a disputed area that straddles the border Sudan and South Sudan.

The development comes at a time when relations between Sudan and Ethiopia are souring over an ongoing border dispute, as well as a fallout from the Horn country's controversial mega dam project.

The deal to withdraw was reached after Sudan's minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, requested the move on behalf of the Sudanese government.

This came after a a virtual meeting held with the UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, in the presence of other UN officials last night. 

As per the reached agreement, Ethiopian soldiers within the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) will withdraw in the next three months.

The Sudanese minister welcomed the development, and thanked the UN for its understanding of Sudan’s request. The country wants Ethiopian forces replaced by peacekeepers from other countries.


The UN forces contribute to peacekeeping in Abyei. There are currently more than 3,000 Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei State, according to a UN report.

Ethiopian soldiers were deployed in the disputed region after South Sudan gained independence in a referendum.

Worsening relations

Yesterday, a large convoy of UN-branded heavy military vehicles were seen entering Ethiopia from Djibouti.

"The UN-branded vehicles belong to the Ethiopian government," the Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti tweeted shortly after a video of the same was shared on social media.

"They've been used by our infantry battalion serving under UNAMID (UN-African Union Mission in Darfur) in Darfur."

The embassy further said that the military vehicles will be re-branded to Ethiopia National Defense Forces (ENDF).

Relations between Ethiopia and Sudan were further strained last December, one month after the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.

Additionally, a land dispute stemming from Sudan taking control of up to 60 kilometres of land deep inside Ethiopia, has been worsening as Sudan alleges that the area was previously annexed by its neighbour.

In another sign of worsening relations, Sudan recently recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia for "consultations" after Addis Ababa rebuffed Prime Minister Abdella Hamdok's initiative to mediate the Tigray crisis.