27 June 2011
The UN Security Council has voted overwhelmingly to send more than 4000 peacekeeping troops to Central Sudan’s conflict-ridden region of Abyei after weeks of violence and scores of civilian deaths.
The move comes less than a fortnight before South Sudan officially secedes from the North on 9 July, following January’s landslide referendum which saw nearly 99% of those polled call for the creation of a new nation; soon to be Africa’s 54th country.
The peacekeeping force – made up primarily of Ethiopian troops – will operate for six months in a bid to limit escalating violence which has marred the run-up to South Sudan’s independence.
According to media reports, an estimated 10,000 civilians have fled the Abyei region since May 21st after North Sudan sent troops into the area. Thought to be rich in oil, the region has become hotly contested in recent weeks and symbolises the North’s unease with the impending loss of territory.
Despite an agreement struck last week between North and South Sudan in Addis Ababa to allow Ethiopian peacekeepers into Abyei to monitor the increasingly tense situation, a spate of violence in recent weeks and days has clearly worried Security Council members.
The area of South Kordofan – located in the north Sudan – has been particularly badly hit. Since early June, fighting has raged between forces loyal to Khartoum and militia representing the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, centering around the soon-to-be border areas.
And, even within hours of the Security Council’s session in New York today, Al Jazeera reported alleged jet attacks on the southern village of Jaw, said to have been launched by the Sudanese army in the north.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation across the region is worsening as aid agencies report a surge in numbers of people moving out of conflict-hit zones.
Commenting on the situation, the Socialist International said: “The unrest currently unfolding in Central Sudan is yet another reminder of the years of turmoil which people across this nation have faced during more than two decades of civil war. Ongoing targeting of civilians and abuse of human rights is and remains wholly unacceptable.
“Let us not forget either the millions of lives which have been lost – and the tens of millions more which have been destroyed - since the conflict between north and south first erupted in the 80s. While we strongly agree with the decision to send in a peacekeeping force, the fact remains that violence has now engulfed this region for too long. We urge all sides to embrace a new era of peace and stability.”