Home | News    Wednesday 25 May 2011

UN relocates staff members out of Abyei as Luka Biong resigns

May 24, 2011 (KADUGALI) - The United Nations in Mission in Sudan has relocated hundreds of its civilian staff members out of Abyei after troops from the Khartoum controlled Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) occupied Abyei town on Saturday.

JPEG - 16.2 kb
Armored personnel carriers manned by Zambian soldiers serving with the international peacekeeping force patrol the streets of Abyei, Sudan Tuesday, May 24, 2011 (UNMIS)

Over 25 tanks accompanied by heavy artillery mounted on vehicles, some of which surrounded the United Nations Camp until Sunday morning, launched a direct attack on the town. Some bombs landed in the United Nations compound, resulting in significant damage of some vehicles and equipments.

The seizure of the oil-producing region town of Abyei came following an attack in which 22 SAF soldiers were killed while their convoy was withdrawing out of Abyei on Thursday 19 May.

The military takeover saw intensified and organized looting as well as burning of houses belongings to civilians who fled the town. Some people are believed to have been killed but numbers are yet to be confirmed. An estimated 20,000 have fled the town.

Brigadier General Tajadin, the overall commanding officer of the forces of the Sudanese Army, on Saturday night declared in a message to the United Nations in Abyei that the town was under control of the Sudanese Army.

"The Sudan Armed forces have entered Abyei. We are in the town. The town is currently under our full control”, Tajadin told head of the United Nations in Abyei at 10:30pm on Saturday while giving assurances that staff members of the United Nations would be safe.

"We will do our best not to inflict harm on you. United Nations is not our target. We do not have problem with the United Nations. It is not our enemy", said General Tajadin through a translator.

Despite the safety assurances, the United Nations on Monday says it considered relocating some of its staff members for safety purposes as well as lack of food in the town and fear of possible retaliation.

A UN member of staff who wished to remain anonymous, as they were not authorized to talk to the media, told Sudan Tribune that some staff were “frightened” and wanted to leave the area.

"We requested relocation because most of us have family members who fled this violence and are confused. Others are frightened by exchange of fire and fear of being harmed in the cross fire. This is why we needed relocation. The other reason is that there is no food. The town is empty. People have run away. There is no where to get food if even there is money,” the UN staff member says.

He said that some staff members had been relocated to Kadugli while others were taken to Wau.

Guang Cong, head of the United Nations office in Abyei, said most of the staff expressed concerns and demanded to be relocated on a provisional basis until the situation stabilizes.

On Tuesday, May 24, Luka Biong Deng, a minister of cabinet affairs in the Government of National Unity in Khartoum announced his resignation over the capture of his native town of Abyei and the dissolution of its administration.

He accused Sudanese government of committing war crimes under the watch of its president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, and that he could not continue to be part of it.