The top United Nations envoy to Sudan today welcomed the withdrawal of the last remaining forces of two groups from the disputed town of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area close to the boundary between the vast African nations’ north and south.
Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that with this move, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have left the local Joint Integrated Units – combining forces of both parties – as the only military force in the town.
Last May, deadly fighting broke out in Abyei, which led to the destruction of much of the town and the sudden displacement of tens of thousands of residents.
The following month, an agreement was reached on a road map seeking to restore stability to the region, spurring civilians who had fled as a result of the violence to start to return.
Mr. Qazi today voiced hope that progress made on the withdrawal from Abyei will opent he door to other advances in implementing this road map, including the funding of the Abyei Area Administration.
“This shows how much the parties can do when they work together as partners,” he said. “This kind of cooperation can serve as a model as we tackle the remaining challenges ahead.”
The envoy lauded the parties for their efforts to keep the arbitration process on track, noting that this shows the potential for progress in putting all elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) into place.
That pact was signed in January 2005, ending the 21-year war between the SAF and the SPLA that killed at least two million people and displaced 4.5 million others.