The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today welcomed the release of two of the six staff members arrested yesterday by the Sudanese Government as they were preparing to relocate from Southern Kordofan and urged that the others be released immediately.
The six were preparing to depart from the airport in Kadugli, the main town in Southern Kordofan, to the Southern Sudanese town of Wau as part of the peacekeeping mission’s relocation of staff due to fighting between the northern army known as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of Southern Sudan.
In an earlier statement issued to the press, UNMIS noted that, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by the Sudanese Government and the mission, the Government is obliged to present the head of the mission with evidence prior to taking any legal action against any UNMIS staff member, national or international, including arresting them.
“UNMIS is very concerned about the safety and security of its staff members and requests their immediate release until evidence of any illegal activities is presented by the local authorities to UNMIS,” the mission stated.
It added that the temporary detention and abuse of four peacekeepers last week and yesterday’s arrest of national staff members constitute “clear and disturbing” violations of the SOFA.
“UNMIS calls on the parties to respect the SOFA, and uphold their commitment to protect civilians and ensure the freedom of movement for all UN staff, regardless of their origin, or ethnic and political affiliations,” the statement added.
The violence that began on 5 June in Southern Kordofan has displaced an estimated 73,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Senior UN officials have repeatedly called for an end to insecurity and movement restrictions, which are continuing to limit the ability of humanitarian personnel to assess the situation and to provide urgently needed assistance to those affected, as well as to the threats to aid workers and peacekeepers in the area.
The latest fighting comes as the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan prepares to become an independent State on 9 July, after a referendum held at the start of this year in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war.