Sudan, South Sudan to pull troops from disputed Abyei region

Posted: September 8, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — The governments of Sudan and South Sudan have reached an agreement that will allow the withdrawal of their troops from the disputed border region of Abyei, according to United Nations officials.

Special Representative to the Secretary-General Edmond Mulet told reporters Thursday that the agreement was reached in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"There are encouraging signs," said British Ambassador Mark Llyal Grant, "beginning with the withdrawals of SAF and SPLA forces and establishment of South Sudan’s government. But we are deeply concerned on a range of issues, 600 deaths in South Sudan, obstacles in Abyei, serious humanitarian situation in South Sudan."

More than 1,500 Ethiopian troops have been deployed in Abyei since June, when the Security Council voted to establish UNISFA after north-south violence resulted in more than 100,000 people fleeing their homes.

Abyei is a region under dispute between Sudan and the newly formed country of South Sudan, and was a battleground for decades in the brutal civil war fought between northern and southern forces. A referendum on whether the area should be part of the north or the South has been delayed over disagreement over who is eligible to vote.

The region, the size of Connecticut, is home to the Ngok Dinka people, who are closely allied with the South, but the area also serves as grazing grounds for northern Misseriya tribes.

Meantime, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect says the U.N. Security Council is failing to protect the people of South Kordofan, Sudan. The group says they have seen a pattern of abuses in the region over the past four months, claiming that individuals are targeted because of ethnicity or political affiliation and that humanitarian agencies are being denied access to those in need of help.

"Sudan is already the site of no less than three UN peacekeeping missions." said Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. "Now is the time to step back and reflect on the nature of the regime in Khartoum and its hand in the ongoing direction of mass atrocity crimes. The U.N. Security Council needs to speak strongly and with one voice. The situation in South Kordofan and now also Blue Nile must not be allowed to fester. Perpetrators want silence, victims need action."

Last month, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports that said Sudanese government airstrikes in the Nuba Mountain area had killed at least 26 people and have forced more than 150,000 people from their homes in South Kordofan state. At least 26 people have died and dozens wounded in the airstrikes, the rights groups said.

The researchers, who were on the ground, witnessed some of the attacks, according to the rights groups.

"Antonov aircraft dropped bombs over farmlands and villages on a near-daily basis while researchers were on the ground from August 14-21," Amnesty said.

Aid groups, including the United Nations, have warned that South Kordofan state is at risk of high levels of malnutrition and mortality because the government has restricted access to the area.

In the past, the Sudanese government has said rebels are to blame for the violence in the region, and has been engaged in a fierce campaign to battle what it says are militia in the area.

Nuba fighters helped South Sudan during the civil war with Sudan, which raged for decades and left millions dead.

South Sudan became an independent nation in July. South Kordofan remains a territory of the Sudanese government in the north, but it borders South Sudan.
Sudan, South Sudan forces to pull back from Abyei: U.N.

By Patrick Worsnip

(Reuters) – Sudan and newly independent South Sudan agreed on Thursday to pull back forces this month from the disputed Abyei region, a senior U.N. official said.

The decision, if implemented, could ease border tensions between the two countries.

"This was agreed today in Addis this morning" by representatives of the two governments, Edmond Mulet, deputy head of the U.N. peacekeeping department, told reporters after briefing the Security Council. The Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the African Union.

Sudan and South Sudan both hope to include Abyei in their territory. South Sudan seceded from the north to form a new nation on July 9 in line with the results of a January referendum held as part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the north and south.

A referendum was originally also planned in Abyei for its population to decide which country they wished to belong to, but it was never held.

Khartoum and Juba have yet to agree on who will control Abyei, stirring fears a long-running quarrel over the region could sour the secession and spark a broader conflict. Neither side has so far withdrawn its forces.

"They have agreed that between the 11th of September until the 30th of September there’s going to be this redeployment or withdrawal of the troops from (the two countries’ armies) from Abyei," Mulet said.

He said the Khartoum government had originally said it would withdraw its forces when an administration was in place in Abyei, but had now dropped that condition.

Some diplomats attending the closed-door Security Council meeting said they were encouraged by the news, but others were more cautious. "We’ll see," one said. "Until it happens…"

Withdrawal by the two sides’ armed forces could ease the task of an all-Ethiopian U.N. peacekeeping force which has been set up to patrol Abyei. More than 1,700 Ethiopian blue-helmets have so far arrived out of a planned 4,200, Mulet said.

Abyei, however, is not the only trouble spot along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Serious fighting has also been going on between Sudanese forces and opposition groups in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The territories are still home to tens of thousands of people from ethnic groups that sided with the south during the civil war that preceded the south’s independence.

"Although there are some encouraging signs, particularly the agreement that was reached today for the beginning of a withdrawal … nonetheless we are deeply concerned about a number of issues over South Sudan and Sudan," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told journalists.

(Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Anthony Boadle)

Associated Press

Sudanese forces pull out of Abyei

Associated Press, 09.08.11, 06:40 PM EDT

UNITED NATIONS — Assistant U.N. peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet says government troops from Sudan’s Arab north and the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement will soon pull out of the contested region of Abyei.

The pullout comes as Ethiopian peacekeepers begin moving in for a temporary assignment to demilitarize the region, with 1,700 of 4,200 peacekeepers now in place.

Mulet told reporters after a closed Security Council meeting about Sudan on Thursday that the two sides agreed in Addis Ababa earlier Thursday to pull out of the region between Sept. 11 and 30. The council has authorized the deployment of the Ethiopian force for six months.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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