The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan has voiced concern over the plight of civilians affected by the recent fighting in the disputed area of Abyei, which has caused many residents to flee to neighbouring villages to seek shelter with relatives or other communities.
Georg Charpentier said in a statement issued on Sunday that humanitarian workers from UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are assessing the needs of those displaced by the violence that erupted when militias attacked Abyei on 27 February.
According to media reports, at least 10 people were killed when a militia attacked a police post in Abyei, with a top official in the southern administration saying the attackers were supported by forces of the northern government, while tribesmen involved in the clashes blamed the fighting on the southern government.
Mr. Charpentier said that aid agencies in Agok, 40 kilometres south of Abyei town, as well as those in Abyei are ready to assist people in need, in particular with food aid, emergency shelter, water and sanitation, and health care.
“The Humanitarian Coordinator calls on all parties to respect the Kadugli Agreements of 13 and 17 January and the Abyei Agreement of 4 March, and to refrain from any action that could put civilians in danger,” said the statement.
Abyei was due to have voted in a separate referendum on whether to join northern or southern Sudan in January, when the South opted for secession, but failure to establish a referendum commission and lack of agreement on who could vote prevented a ballot.
Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has welcomed the agreement signed on Friday by representatives of the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party in northern Sudan, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south to immediately implement earlier accords on the Abyei dispute.
The agreement was reached at a UN-facilitated meeting in Abyei which addressed the current security situation and established a standing committee comprised of representatives from both parties, as well as the command of the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs), which are made up of troops drawn from both the north and the south.
The pact reiterated the need for the full and effective deployment of JIUs to specific locations in Abyei and decided on the immediate withdrawal of all other forces from the area, while ensuring that the JIUs do not include those involved in the clashes of 2008 or elements that may have a conflict of interest regarding the Abyei dispute.
“This agreement is an important step,” said Haile Menkerios, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIS. “The recent clashes in the Abyei area have highlighted the challenges still to be overcome by both sides and I expect a speedy and effective implementation of the agreed measures. The UN is ready to facilitate this, as requested by both parties in this agreement,” he added.