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Sudan Tribune

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South Sudan urges int’l community to get tough on Khartoum over Abyei

By Ngor Arol Garang

October 16, 2011 (JUBA) – South Sudan has urged the international community to set a deadline for Sudan to withdraw from Abyei, one day after Khartoum said it would not pull out its troops unless a deal on managing the hotly-contested region is fully implemented.

Sudan's ambassador to the UN (FILE)
Sudan’s ambassador to the UN (FILE)
Sudan and South Sudan, which split from the former in July this year, signed an agreement on 20 June in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to withdraw troops from Abyei which was seized a month earlier by Sudan’s army (SAF) in response to an attack allegedly carried out by South Sudanese troops.

The Addis Ababa deal provided for the establishment of joint administration and joint observation teams to oversee the deployment of a UN-mandated force of Ethiopian peacekeepers following the withdrawal of SAF and South Sudan’s army from the area.

South Sudan says it withdrew all troops from the area. However, the UN says both countries failed to withdraw their troops by 30 September as agreed.

The spectre of renewed hostilities in the region has been exacerbated by the onset of the migration season during which Sudan-allied nomads of Al-Missryah cross into Abyei to graze their cattle.

Luka Biong Deng, a senior member of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), on Saturday called for immediate action to protect civilians and address the “deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Abyei.

In an exclusive phone interview with Sudan Tribune from the US, Biong urged the international community, particularly the United Nations, to take a clear position setting a deadline for unconditional withdrawal of armed groups existing in the region, saying their continued physical presence represents a clear violation of Addis Ababa agreement.

“The international community, especially the United Nation must make a very clear, very clear position on the presence of the armed forces in Abyei. They must set a date on which the two forces must withdraw from the area without giving any prerequisite condition,” Luka told Sudan Tribune.

Luka, who resigned from his position in the ministry of cabinet affairs in the Sudanese government prior to South Sudan’s secession in protest against SAF’s invasion of Abyei, further called on the international community to take the issue “more seriously” and hold accountable those who fail to withdraw troops from Abyei.

“The international community must come out openly to make a clear position including taking actions against those who will fail to withdraw troops from the area”, adding that Addis Ababa agreement makes it “very clear” that only UN forces are to be in charge of the region.

The SPLM figure argued that the Addis Ababa agreement does not give room to Khartoum’s claims on withdrawal, adding that such claims were signs of “unacceptable behavior.”

Khartoum says it will not withdraw troops until the United Nation Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA) is fully deployed and the formation of joint observation teams is finalized.

UNISFA, which is composed of Ethiopian peacekeepers, has managed to deploy 1,780 troops out of a full force of 4,200.