Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sudan to pull troops out of Abyei

Reports have emerged that Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir and the South's Leader Salva Kiir have agreed to withdraw troops from the oil-rich region of Abyei. Last month, Sudan's army seized the disputed town in what the South called an “act of war,” subsequently killing southern soldiers and civilians.

South Sudan is set to become independent in July, after the majority of South Sudanese people voted in favour of secession in January. The status of Abyei is yet to be resolved after a referendum on its future was shelved.

It is estimated that around 140,000 people have fled Abyei and the neighbouring region of South Kordofan because of the violence.

Neither Al-Bashir nor Kiir have confirmed the deal, but experts say the discussions, which took place in Addis Ababa, are a significant step forward. Before heading for the Ethiopian capital, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged both sides to accept the offer of Ethiopian troops to be deployed to the region, which is set to become a demilitarised zone.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi helped mediate the deal.

Abyei was granted a special status under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the two decade civil war between the North and the South. Terms under the agreement stipulate that both sides have to keep their troops out until a referendum to determine Abyei's future.

Sources: BBC News, Sudan Tribune, Voice of America

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

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