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Food and water most urgent needs for civilians displaced by Abyei clashes – UN

Food and water most urgent needs for civilians displaced by Abyei clashes – UN

Unidentified men loot the WFP compound in Abyei as fires burn in the background
Heavy rains are making it difficult to ascertain the exact number and location of the thousands of civilians forced to flee their homes due to the recent violence in the Sudanese town of Abyei, but the United Nations says the displaced are in urgent need of food and water.

The situation in and around Abyei, which is disputed by both north and south Sudan, remains volatile, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

The town has been the scene of renewed fighting in recent days, including looting and burning earlier this week, following the takeover of the area by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – a move condemned by the Security Council as a breach of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan.

OCHA reports that tens of thousands of displaced people from the Abyei area have arrived in various locations in Southern Sudan, and assessments of displaced communities are underway.

Initial findings indicate that the most urgent needs are food and water, while the recent heavy rains have already increased the risk of water-borne diseases.

The heavy rains and limited access to the area, along with the fact that many groups are still on the move or hiding, have made it difficult to identify the precise locations and numbers of people that have moved further south, the Office stated.

Meanwhile, DPKO says the Sudanese government forces maintain their presence in Abyei, and a large number of Misseriya militia has also been reported. There is still sporadic fighting south of Abyei, and looting and burning of property continues.

Yesterday, the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and UN agencies conducted road and air assessments, which confirmed the heavy presence of armed men

“We have repeatedly made it clear to commanders from all levels from the Sudan Armed Forces, including the Officer in Charge on the ground, that by virtue of being in control of the area, the Sudan Armed Forces is responsible for stopping the looting and arson and bringing those responsible to justice,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.

“Unfortunately, so far we have not seen sufficient steps taken by the Sudan Armed Forces to stop it or hold those responsible accountable for it,” he added.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIS, Haile Menkerios, has been in touch with the leadership on both sides to contain the situation and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

Deadly clashes have claimed dozens of lives since the start of the year, when a referendum on Abyei’s status that was supposed to have been held never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.

Southern Sudan will formally secede from the rest of the country on 9 July as a result of a separate referendum held in accordance with the CPA.

“The dispute over the future status of the Abyei area is the greatest challenge to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in a report on Sudan that was released this week.

“Only a political agreement between the two parties on the final status of Abyei will ease tensions and provide security for the population of Abyei,” he stressed.

In the report, Mr. Ban also recommends that the Security Council establish a UN operation in South Sudan, which would be a successor mission to UNMIS and help the Government and people of the newly independent nation consolidate peace and create a foundation for its economic, political and social development.

The new operation would be known as the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and would be a multidimensional operation whose tasks would include good offices and political support for peace consolidation; support to security sector reform and the rule of law; and security aspects, including conflict mitigation and physical protection of civilians.