June 20, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The international community on Monday welcomed an accord signed in Addis Ababa between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP) in which they agreed to withdraw all their troops from the contested region of Abyei.
- A wide view of the Security Council as Members hear a briefing from Thabo Mbeki (on screen, right), former President of South Africa and Chair of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP), June 20 2011 (UN)
The African Union High Level implementation Panel (AUHIP) headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki broke the news of the deal via video conference from the Ethiopian capital with members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York today.
Under the deal inked between the signatories to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) would withdraw any troops they have from the oil-producing district after which Ethiopian troops would be deployed to fill the void.
The agreement details the mechanism by which the Abyei administration council to replace the one dissolved by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir following SAF’s takeover of Abyei last month. Its chief shall be picked by the SPLM but must be approved by the NCP. The deputy however, would be nominated by the NCP and endorsed by the Southern ex-rebel group.
Three of the five heads of the departments of the administrative council would be nominated by the SPLM and the remaining two by the NCP.
A police service would be established for the region, with the size and composition determined by a joint committee co-chaired by northern and southern officials.
The development represents a major breakthrough by Mbeki’s panel following over a week of marathonic talks between the North and South that saw countries like the U.S. weigh in to press for a resolution.
The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the accord but said the real test would be how both sides implemented the deal.
"The agreement signed today is an important first step — but the real test of the parties’ commitment will be the full implementation of its provisions in the coming days," Clinton said in a statement.
"We will work within the UN Security Council to seek a resolution authorizing the agreed-upon interim security force to support the swift deployment of the Ethiopian peacekeepers".
"At the same time, I urge all parties to follow through on their commitment to withdraw their military forces and take steps to facilitate the return of the tens of thousands of people displaced by recent fighting."
The U.S. top diplomat commended Mbeki and head of UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Haile Menkerios for their efforts.
"I know these negotiations have not been easy. I commend both parties for resolving their differences peacefully after the outbreak of violence" Clinton said
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also welcomed the deal and urged adherence to it.
The secretary-general "calls on the parties to abide in full by its provisions to demilitarize the area and establish an administration and police service and to provide their full cooperation to the United Nations and government of Ethiopia in deploying peacekeeping troops and police to the area," said the statement attributed to Ban.
The status of Abyei was supposed to be determined through a referendum that was to be held in January but disagreement on who is eligible to vote stalled the process.
Observers say that Abyei could be the ’Kashmir’ of Sudan. The South will officially become a new state on July 9th.