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Juba refutes Khartoum & UN claims on Sudanese withdrawal from Abyei

May 30, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Wednesday accused the government of neigbouring Sudan of redeploying "additional" troops into the hotly contested border region of Abyei, while the United Nations reported that the withdrawal had been completed.

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South Sudan Minister of Information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Getty)

"Present reports that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have withdrawn from Abyei are false. The Sudanese armed forces have not withdrawn. They have redeployed. This is the whole truth", Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s Minister of Information told a news conference in Juba on Wednesday.

However, the UN Secretary-General, upon receiving confirmation from the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA), welcomed the full withdrawal of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) from Abyei and urged the Sudan government to withdraw all the remaining armed police forces.

Ban Ki-moon, in a statement on Wednesday, also called upon both the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to adhere to the 20 June 2011 Agreement on Temporary Security Arrangement for Abyei, which advocates for the immediate establishment of the Abyei area administration to provide the governance needed for civilians in the area.

The UN chief also lauded the resumption of post-secession negotiations between the two nations under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), and encouraged both governments to “display the leadership” necessary to resolve all outstanding issues within the three-month time frame proposed by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) Communiqué of 24 April and the 2 May United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2046.

He further urged both governments to activate the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism aimed at ensuring security of their tense and often volatile common border.

Marial accused the Sudanese army of violating the Security Council resolution by violating South Sudan airspace and named Major General Adam Mohamed as the commander of the new forces deployed in Abyei.

Sudanese military planes, according to Marial, had been spotted over the border states of West and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States, Unity State, and the capital Juba in the far south of the country.

South Sudan had already withdrawn its troops from Abyei, as per the resolution but diplomatic sources of told Reuters that Juba retains 20 unarmed security personnel in the area, with Khartoum keeping 50 police in the area.

The strategically important oil-producing Abyei area was to have voted on whether to remain in the north or join newly-independent South Sudan in January 2011 as part of the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of conflict. However, the two sides could not agree on which groups should be allowed to vote, scuppering the scheduled referendum.

Abyei was seized by Sudanese forces over year ago after one of its convoys was attacked by southern forces, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. The fate of the fertile area and its delayed referendum is one of the main sticking points in post-independence talks, which were halted in March and April as the two sides fought a border conflict over Heglig, an oil-producing area just to the east of Abyei.

South Sudan claims that over 80 bombs have been dropped by SAF on its territory and that Khartoum is backing rebels in world’s youngest nation. Khartoum, however, wants talks to focus on security issues as it accuses the SPLA of supporting its former colleagues the SPLA-North who have been fighting the government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since last year.

The United Security Council Resolution 2046, as well as calling for the unconditional withdrawal of both country’s forces from Abyei, also called for Juba to stop assisting the SPLA-N. Both sides deny helping the other’s rebel groups.

SPLA spokesman, Colonel Phillip Aguer, also accused SAF of not abiding by the UN Security Council Resolution, by withdrawing from Abyei and ending all hostilities immediately.

“This is what the resolution says. It is very clear. So why Sudanese are armed forces redeploying instead of withdrawing from the area if the government is really committed to peace”, Aguer said on Wednesday.

Aguer said it was “high time” the global community “seriously” take Khartoum “by the horn” in order to withdraw from Abyei and “stop escalating its aggression” against South Sudan.

“The government of the Republic of South Sudan has complied with the UN Resolution 2046 and therefore, the UN must also ensure that Sudan must equally comply with the resolution.”

Aguer said that Khartoum’s claims of a withdrawal were "a clear lie" to deceive the international community. "This is a not sign of the government that is committed to reaching peaceful settlement”, he said. The latest round of negotiations are due to enter their third day on Thursday.

The Sudanese government did not comment on Juba’s allegations on Wednesday, which included specific charges that SAF have troops in the following areas of Abyei:

  • Two SAF platoons dressed as police still in Abyei town.
  • Two SAF platoons dressed as police in Langer (Goli), 22km north of Abyei.
  • Two SAF platoons at Agany, about 10km north of Langer (Goli).
  • One battalion of Police Reserves about 5 miles from Kej (Diffra)
  • Two SAF companies in Atilla, west of Abyei town.

He also said that SAF had assembled various militia groups allegedly involved in attacks in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State and the Abyei Area to the West of Diffra.