Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Sudan to withdraw troops from Abyei

North and South Sudan have agreed to withdraw unauthorised troops from the disputed Abyei region, according to a UN statement from 8th May.

There have been several clashes in the area in recent months, leading to dozens of deaths.

Both sides accuse the other of sending unauthorised troops and militia to Abyei, violating the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended decades of civil war in Sudan.

In a January independence referendum, South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede from the north, and will become a new state on 9th July, 2011.

The oil-rich Abyei region, which straddles the border, was due to have its own referendum on whether to join the north or south in January, but the vote never took place because Khartoum and Juba could not agree on voter eligibility.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) released a statement on Sunday 8th May which said that the troop pullout would start from Tuesday, and should be completed within a week. The region would then be monitored by joint patrols.

The move was agreed at a meeting of northern and southern representatives and headed by UNMIS Force Commander Major General Moses Obi .

A peace accord signed in January also called on both sides to withdraw all forces, excepting the special Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) of northern and southern personnel, and UN peacekeepers.

The so-called Kadugli Agreement – named after the South Kordofan state capital where the agreement was signed – has not been upheld, and it remains to be seen if the most recent agreement is more successful.

South Sudan recently published a new draft constitution which specifically lays claim to Abyei.

Sudan 's President Omar Al-Bashir threatened to withhold recognition of the new state if the claims to Abyei were not dropped.

The north backs the Arab Misseriya tribes, which spend part of the year in Abyei as they search for pastures for their cattle.

The South supports the Dinka Ngok , permanent residents of the region.

Misseriya and Dinka Ngok personnel often clash, alledgedly with the support of the northern and southern armies.

Last week, 14 people were killed at a security checkpoint 10 miles north of Abyei town when fighting broke out between southern police forces and northern elements within the JIUs deployed there.

JIUs were established as part of the 2005 CPA, but according to the International Crisis Group , they have largely failed in their intentions.

They have performed poorly, been involved in numerous large-scale clashes and are characterised by mistrust.

Sources: BBC News, AFP, ICG, Sudan Vision Daily

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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