Amid ongoing tensions, UN urges Sudanese parties to prevent further violence

By United Nations

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today called on the Sudanese parties to defuse tensions in Abyei and Southern Kordofan state, following the recent fighting in those areas, and to prevent any further escalation of violence.

Violence and looting broke out in Abyei, a town contested by both north and south Sudan, after the northern troops took control of the area last month, displacing an estimated 45,000 people.

On Friday the Security Council called on the Sudanese Government to withdraw immediately from Abyei, stating that its military presence in the area constitutes “a serious violation” of previous agreements.

UNMIS said that looting is continuing in Abyei despite assurances from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) that they would stop it.

“We urge the SAF to uphold its commitment and intervene to stop these criminal acts,” the mission said in a statement.

UNMIS also urged the Sudanese forces to immediately release all civilians that are still in their custody and grant unconditional humanitarian access to all parts of Abyei.

The mission further called on the SAF to immediately stop its artillery fire in the vicinity of the UNMIS compound, saying it poses “a security threat for the UN presence, patrols and flights in Abyei and creates high risks for civilians who may be willing to return to their villages.”

Noting security incidents over the weekend in two areas of Southern Kordofan state, the mission urged the parties to exercise maximum restraint and resume dialogue to resolve their dispute.

The latest violence comes just weeks before Southern Sudan formally separates on 9 July from the rest of the country, following a referendum held in January.

Meanwhile, a UN military adviser probing the response of UN peacekeepers to the northern troops' takeover of Abyei last month and the subsequent looting and violence against civilians has found that the UN should have been more visible at the time.

General Babacar Gaye, who met with the Force Commander of UNMIS and with troops on the ground, found that the contingent of Zambian peacekeepers in Abyei “could have and should have had more visibility to deter any violence against civilians and the destruction of property,” according to a UN spokesperson.

“He has given the appropriate guidance to the Force Commander and troops to be more proactive and visible.”

The spokesperson noted that most civilians had left the area before the peak of the crisis and that both UNMIS troops and civilians were in imminent danger as the UNMIS compound in Abyei came under fire.