Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sudan leaders agree “full demilitarisation” of Abyei

Leaders from north and south Sudan signed an agreement pledging to end fighting in the disputed border region of Abyei, on Monday 20th June.

The agreement was reached after days of mediation by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, in the Ethopian capital of Addis Ababa.

The deal requires both northern and southern troops to leave Abyei, to be replaced by Ethiopian peacekeepers, in an agreement that Mbeki has said will provide for the "full demilitarisation" of Abyei.

Both north and South Sudan claim the oil-rich border region of Abyei, and northern forces seized the town last month, causing over one hundred thousand people to flee, mostly to the south.

Violence in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan has also led to 60,000 people being displaced.

Some 4,000 Ethiopian troops are expected to be brought in after the Sudanese army has left, although the UN will determine the exact troop numbers and their mandate.

With South Sudan planning to declare independence on 9th July, 2011, Mbeki said in his announcement of the deal, it was crucial that the peacekeepers were brought in as soon as possible. He urged the UN Security Council to authorise their deployment without delay.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement and pledged “the full support of the United Nations to the parties in facilitating its implementation.”

Ban also urged the two sides to resolve "all outstanding issues related to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and post-secession arrangement, and to reach an immediate cessation of hostilities in Southern Kordofan State and provide their full co-operation to humanitarian agencies in meeting the needs of the affected population."

The violence, which started on 5th June, continues in Southern Kordofan state. US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, spoke of reports that alleged that forces aligned with the north had “searched for southern forces and sympathisers, whom they arrested and allegedly executed.”

Mbeki said political leaders from Southern Kordofan would be arriving shortly in Addis Ababa to hold talks on ending the conflict.

Violence broke out after residents in the state's Nuba Mountains, many of whom fought for the south during the country's decades-long civil war, were ordered to disarm by the new Khartoum-allied governor, Ahmed Haroun, who has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

South Sudan voted overwhelming in favour of independence in a January referendum, prescribed by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which brought civil war to an end.

Abyei was meant to have its own referendum on whether it would stay in the north or join the south, however the vote was postponed indefinitely over disagreements on voter eligibility, to do with the nomadic, Khartoum-backed Misseriya Arab tribespeople.

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states are clearly in the north, however many of their residents fought with the south during the civil war, and tension has been high as the South prepares to separate.

Sources: BBC News, the Guardian, RTT News

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

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