April 25, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – Consultations with Sudan and South Sudan over the exit of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei from the border area were not conclusive, the UN chief told the Security Council.
Six months ago, the Council requested UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to consult, Sudan, South Sudan and the troops-contributing Ethiopia on the exit strategy of UNISFA.
In a letter to the 15-member council on 1 April, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sudan, South Sudan have different positions on the exit of the mission.
“The Sudan indicated that a responsible drawdown of UNISFA could be considered immediately but should proceed gradually over a one-year period,” said Guterres in his letter.
Sudan wants to use this period to establish the joint administration agreed by the two parties in a deal struck by the Sudanese government and the SPLM on 20 June 2011, he further said.
Sudan “therefore would be in favour of a mandate renewal for UNISFA which would also enable the parties in the meantime to hold consultations with the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development on successor arrangements”.
On 27 June 2011, the Security Council authorized the deployment of over 4000 Ethiopian troops under the UN flag following bloody violence and displacement of civilians ahead of South Sudan independence in July 2011.
In line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, Abyei residents should vote in a referendum to determine if they want to remain in Sudan or to join South Sudan.
Nonetheless, the two sides failed to agree who is a resident of the border area as Khartoum wants the Misseriya herders to take part in the vote while Juba rejects their participation.
In his letter, the Secretary-General said Sudan wants to resolve all the outstanding issues with South Sudan and develop bilateral cooperation.
With regard to the border area, Sudan wants to attain “a mutually beneficial solution in which Abyei would become a “soft border” and an example of peaceful coexistence, development and shared prosperity for the local communities,” reads the letter.
Guterres further said that Juba does not share Khartoum’s position on the UNISFA drawdown.
The Government of South Sudan says the “mission’s exit should be envisaged only after the resolution of the final status of Abyei”.
He added that South Sudan rejects the establishment of a joint administration in Abyei as provided on 20 June 2011 agreement pointing to the lack of trust between the Dinka Ngok and Misseriya.
Instead, Juba proposes to maintain two separate administrations: the Juba-appointed administration of Abyei and the Muglad based Misseriya administration.
The South Sudanese government said the two administrations can cooperate on the “Misseriya grazing rights and other issues of mutual concern”.
The South Sudanese government rejects the formation of the Abyei joint administration and calls for holding a referendum without the participation of the Misseriya nomads, saying Abyei is not their home area.
Sudan which is at odds with Ethiopia over on the GERD and the border standoff on 7 April requested the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and to replace them with a multinational African force.
In his letter of 1 April to the Security Council, Guterres said Ethiopia believed that South Sudan was “comfortable with the presence of Ethiopian troops” in Abyei.
He also said that Ethiopia considers the presence of its troops prevent conflict between Sudan and South Sudan and therefore ensure “security for Ethiopia as well, as such a conflict would have repercussions for Ethiopia and the wider region”.
However, Ethiopia alluded that any reduction of its troops deployed in Abyei may put their security at risk and force Addis Ababa to end its participation in the UNISFA.
“For Ethiopia, a reduction in the troop level of UNISFA, combined with a lack of cooperation by Sudan, would prevent UNISFA from fully implementing its mandate,” said the secretary-general.
“A further reduction of forces, in its view, would put the remaining troops of UNISFA at risk and lead Ethiopia to withdraw them from the operation for their own safety,” he stressed.
On Monday 26 April, the Security Council is expected to discuss a report on Abyei by the Secretary-General.