UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council yesterday voted to add more than 1,100 extra troops to the international peacekeeping force in Abyei amid new tensions between Sudan and South Sudan over the territory.
The move comes after the killing of a tribal leader and an Ethiopian peacekeeper in the past month.
The Security Council voted unanimously to increase the strength of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) to 5,326 troops following repeated demands by UN leader Ban Ki-moon.
The previous force strength was 4,200 troops. All the troops come from Ethiopia.
Ban said in a recent report to the 150-nation council that rival groups in Abyei “remain armed, hostile and highly distrustful of each other.” He said extra forces were needed to guard Abyei’s borders and because of the growing presence of armed groups.
S. Sudan and Sudan have disputed sovereignty of Abyei since their split in July 2011. Rivalry between groups loyal to the two sides have regularly turned into deadly clashes and Sudanese troops occupied much of the territory for a while.
Tensions hit a new peak with the May 4 killing of the paramount chief of the Ngok Dinka people, loyal to S. Sudan, and an Ethiopian peacekeeper by Misseriya gunmen considered supporters of the Khartoum government.
The annual migration of about 100,000 Misseriya pastoral tribes people with their 1.6 million cattle makes Abyei, normally dominated by the Ngok Dinka, a security tinderbox.
Inter-communal murders that the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya blame on each other have also heightened tensions.
A Security Council resolution called on Sudan and S. Sudan to step up cooperation with UN peacekeepers and also stressed that UNISFA had a mandate to take “necessary actions” to protect civilians.
Sudan and S. Sudan have failed to agree on the makeup of an area council and government and even how to set up a jointly controlled Abyei police service.
The Security Council renewed a “demand” that the two sides “urgently finalize the establishment” of an Abyei area council and police force.
It also called on the two governments to “immediately to take steps to implement confidence-building measures among the respective communities in Abyei” that head off new violent clashes.