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Sudan Tribune

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Sudanese army warns UN against deploying troops on North-South borders

October 15, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese army reacted angrily to the announcement by the United Nations peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy yesterday in which he said that the world body intends to redeploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the north-south border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones.

146036.jpgOn Friday an unnamed UN official told Reuters that as of yesterday, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) “significantly increased its troop presence in the [Abyei] area.

The South Sudan referendum is required by a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21-year civil war between Sudan’s predominantly Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the largely Christian-animist south.

Preparations for the Jan. 9 vote have proceeded haltingly amid political and logistical obstacles, and the southerners have accused the northerners of stalling, warning of violence if the referendum is delayed.

Another vote in the border region of Abyei is likely to be postponed as the North and South failed to resolve their disagreement over the composition of Abyei’s referendum’s electoral commission, eligibility of voters and demarcating the borders. Officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said today that the delay is all but certain angering their former foes at the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM).

A spokesperson for the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) slammed the statements made by Le Roy saying it demonstrates his “ignorance”.

“The remarks made by the official in charge of peacekeeping at the United Nations Alain Le Roy on the deployment of UN buffer troops on the border between North and South, reflects nothing but ignorance on the course of events in Sudan or harassment aimed at [Sudan’s] stability and integrity,” said SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad in statements carried by Sudan official news agency late on Friday.

The senior military official affirmed to SUNA the army’s ability to deal with any incidents affecting the security and safety of citizens whether they are in the north or south.

Sa’ad further stressed that UNMIS has a “specific mandate” which does not include deployment on the North-South borders but to monitor the implementation of the CPA.

The move by the UN peacekeepers comes at the heels of last week’s visit by the UN Security Council (UNSC) delegation to Sudan during which South Sudan president Salva Kiir asked for creation of buffer zones on the North-South borders for fear of possible eruption of violence as tensions continue to grow between both sides.

Council diplomats at the time promised him that this request would be considered though later acknowledged that it would not be feasible to have a deployment along the vast 1,250 mile (2,000 kilometer) north borders due to lack of manpower and will instead will focus on beefing up presence in certain “hotspots” on the borders.

SAF spokesperson described statements by the UN peacekeeping chief as contributing to aggravating the situation and escalating it which he said coincides with the arrangements for the referendum. He added that there was no threat to the security and safety of Southerners after president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir himself provided assurances.

The North-South borders have yet to be demarcated mainly because of the existence of oil in these areas. The NCP have said in the past that no referendum will take place without finishing the demarcation process.

The Sudanese president this week warned that the stalled process of demarcating the North-South borders threatens to reignite the conflict between both sides.

Sanaa Hamad, a state minister at the Sudanese information ministry, told SUNA that the push for buffer zones is a result of pressure by the West but emphasized that Sudan is a sovereign country and as such a move can only take place with the consent of Khartoum.

UNMIS has about 10,600 troops and police in Sudan monitoring the peace accord.