Sudanese military missed re-deployment deadline in south, says UN report
Sudan’s armed forces missed a deadline last month to re-deploy out of the south of the country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report charting the progress being made on implementing the comprehensive peace agreement ending the long-running north-south civil war.
Voicing regret that the 9 July deadline “has not been fully met,” Mr. Ban calls on the military to immediately remove from the south all of its remaining elements, with the exception of those soldiers designated for new joint integrated units with the former rebels, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Although most of the Sudanese military had re-deployed by the 9 July deadline, at least 3,600 troops still remain, mostly in Upper Nile state. The armed forces say they are necessary to protect oilfields pending the placement of the joint integrated units, but this is disputed by the SPLA.
Mr. Ban writes that the development of those integrated units “remains an issue of central importance,” with the assignment of troops to them now nine months overdue. He also notes that their formation is a prerequisite for SPLA forces to fully re-deploy from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Under the January 2005 peace pact that ended the decades-long war between north and south, and granted some autonomy to the south, the joint units are mandated to protect key oilfields and the oil installations themselves are to be demilitarized.
The Secretary-General says management of Sudan’s oil sector, uncertainty over the status of Abyei, a disputed area, and agreement over the boundary between north and south will be key issues for the parties and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to resolve in the coming months.
The reintegration of ex-combatants from other armed groups, particularly the Southern Sudan Defence Force, will also be critical, he says.
But Mr. Ban welcomes the progress made towards resolving outstanding disputes over wealth sharing and supporting the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their home towns and villages.
He also praises “the intensive contacts and negotiations” between the two sides in the joint institutions set up as a result of the comprehensive peace deal.
But the pace of preparations for mid-term elections, scheduled for 2009, “has so far been disappointing, and both parties have to accelerate work dramatically on the necessary legislative reforms.”
Meanwhile, the report welcomes the Security Councils’ recent authorization of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (to be known as UNAMID) in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where a separate conflict has raged since 2003.