Six months after establishing the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the UN Security Council has extended the mandate for a further five months.
On 27 June this year, the Security Council established the Interim Security Force for Abyei, for an initial six months. The UN took this initial action because Sudanese troops had taken control of Abyei, triggering an outbreak of violence. That violence displaced tens of thousands of people in the weeks before South Sudan became an independent State after seceding from Sudan.
The Abyei area is claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan. The UN says the ability to do its work effectively will depend on the implementation by the two countries of earlier agreements.
Earlier this month, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous told the Security Council about the “fragile security situation in Abyei”, with both Sudans failing to withdraw their armed forces as they had previously agreed to do.
Showing obvious impatience, the Council demanded both governments withdraw remaining military and police personnel from the Abyei area immediately, without preconditions. They demanded both countries urgently finalize the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service, as had been agreed on 20 June.
A Joint Political and Security Mechanism was available, to resolve outstanding issues related to finalization of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, the resolution of disputed border areas, border demarcation, and the mapping of the border zone.
The UN says there had been significant efforts by an African Union panel and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and Southern Sudan, Haile Menkerios. Even so, very little progress has been made towards establishing temporary administrative arrangements for Abyei.
Relief workers require safe and unhindered access to civilians in need of assistance, an effort made difficult or impossible by the presence and actions of the two military forces.
Last week, the Council expanded UNISFA’s mandate to include, among other tasks, assisting the two parties to abide by and implement their agreements on the demilitarization of Abyei.
The 15-member Council called on all Member States, particularly the two parties to the Abyei dispute, to ensure free, unhindered and quick movement to and from Abyei and throughout the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone of all UNISFA personnel, equipment and other supplies. The UN has provided vehicles, aircraft and spare parts, exclusively for peacekeepers.
This resolution asks both governments to fulfil the commitment made under their Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to peacefully resolve the final status of Abyei.