Security Council members today agreed to extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission set up at the end of the north-south civil war in Sudan and establish a replacement operation once the south formally separates in July.
In a unanimous resolution the 15-member Council voted to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) until 9 July, the date on which Southern Sudan will become an independent State and break away from the rest of Sudan.
Millions of Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly in January in favour of separation in a referendum conducted as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the 2005 pact that ended the long-running civil war.
In today’s resolution the Council said it plans to set up a successor mission to UNMIS and asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a report by 16 May on the post-independence options for a UN presence.
Senior UN officials have voiced concern in recent weeks about the violence and tensions within Southern Sudan ahead of independence, as well as ongoing disputes between the north and south over such issues as the status of the Abyei area and border demarcation.
Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed since the start of the year in clashes in various states of the south, often involving Southern Sudanese forces and renegade militia groups.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Atul Khare told the Council last week that key elements of the CPA may not be resolved before 9 July, and that these disputes threaten to pull the parties back into open conflict.
UNMIS, which has been in place since 2005, currently has more than 10,000 uniformed personnel deployed, as well as more than 4,000 local and international civilian staff and volunteers.