July 29, 2011 (NAIROBI) – A veteran Ethiopian military commander has been appointed to discharge the mandate of his country’s UN-financed peacekeeping mission to Sudan’s hotly-contested region of Abyei.
- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during the second day of third Global Review of aid for trade co-hosted by the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 19, 2011 (AP Photos)
Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede Tesfay, 53, was tipped on Wednesday by the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to assume responsibility of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), established pursuant to the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) resolution 1990.
The mission’s mandate was approved on 27 June by the UNSC in line with an agreement signed seven days earlier between Sudan and South Sudan under the aegis of the African Union on temporary security and administrative arrangements in the border region of Abyei, including full demilitarisation of the area.
Deployment logistics of UNISFA’s 3000 Ethiopian peacekeepers were transported to Abyei on 8 July, according to Ethiopian military officials.
Abyei, a fertile and oil-producing region straddling the ill-defined borders between Sudan and South Sudan, is claimed by both countries. The region’s status was supposed to be decided in a referendum in early January but the vote stalled due to disagreements between Sudanese and Southern Sudanese leaders on who should vote.
Sudan insists that members of the Misseria tribe who traverse the borders into Abyei a few months a year to graze their cattle be allowed to vote while South Sudan, which became independent on 9 July, maintains that only its constituents of Dinka Ngok should be allowed to vote.
In the run-up to South Sudan’s declaration of independence from Sudan, the latter’s army occupied the region in May in response to an attack allegedly carried out by southern forces.
The agreement on Abyei stipulates that Sudan’s army should redeploy out of Abyei boundaries, as defined by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, consequent to the deployment of UNISFA.
Under Abyei agreement, UNSIFA is tasked with verification and monitoring of security in Abyei, including protection of civilians and the region’s borders from “incursions by unauthorized elements.”
“Lieutenant General Tesfay has most recently occupied the position of Head of the Joint Training Department and has previously held a number of important command and staff appointments within the ENDF [Ethiopian National Defence Forces], including commanding the Army Corps and serving as a member of the Defence Commanders Council,” Ki-Moon said of his appointee in a press release seen by Sudan Tribune.
The press release added that Tesfay has a masters degree in business management (MBA) and an additional masters in security sector management (MSSM).
Under the Abyei agreement, Tesfay shall also be chairing a joint military observer committee consisting of an equal number of observers from Sudan and South Sudan.
The observer committee will be stationed in Abyei, according to the deal.