March 12, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The boss of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the peacekeeping force tasked with preventing the renewal of the north-south civil war, praised the final troop withdrawals from the flashpoint area of Abyei.
Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, a special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UNMIS, issued a statement Thursday welcoming the drawdown of the former enemies, SAF and SPLA, from the oil-rich zone, known as the Abyei Roadmap Area.
The Abyei Roadmap Agreement was signed in June 2008 following heavy fighting in May that caused approximately 50,000 people to flee. The deal commits both the SPLM and the Government of Sudan to accept the forthcoming ruling of an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, which will determine how the boundaries of Abyei are delimited.
“With this move, the parties have left the local Joint Integrated Units as the only military force in Abyei,” he said, referring to a mixed battalion comprised of fresh troops deployed to the area in accordance with the June roadmap agreement, replacing those troops that had been involved in the fighting.
An interim administration in the flashpoint area is supposed to be mainly funded by the Government of Sudan, which agreed to provide a share of revenues from local oil wells. But the government has not provided the funds.
Even so, Qazi emphasized his hope that the progress made on this issue will help pave the way for other advances in implementing the roadmap agreement, including the funding of the Abyei Area Administration. “This shows how much the parties can do when they work together, as partners,” he said. “This kind of cooperation can serve as a model as we tackle the remaining challenges ahead.”
The UNMIS boss also commended the parties for working hard to keep the Abyei arbitration process on schedule, noting that this further displayed the potential for progress and cooperation with regard to peacefully implementing all the benchmarks and components of the CPA.
However, this week the matter was raised in the South Sudan parliament, which passed resolutions emphasizing the need to help displaced populations return to the area and grant the people of Abyei the two percent of oil revenue from the area guaranteed to them under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
During the debate, MPs complained that the Government of Sudan is not providing the promised funds to the Abyei administrators.
Recently, UNMIS complained that a Sudanese newspaper falsified an interview with Qazi, mischaracterizing his views by distorting an interview he had made with an Egyptian newspaper.