We think it is important to start by reminding ourselves that Abyei is a contested area with a very troubled past. In this light UNISFA, with its strong and clear mandate is needed until the parties – Sudan and South Sudan – agree on all pending issues. A sustainable solution must also take into account the views of the local populations.
Abyei has the potential to showcase the recent building of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, which have been marked by increased trade, development, peaceful coexistence, and most notably the Juba Peace Agreement. Unfortunately though, these positive developments are not reflected in the situation on the ground in Abyei. We see continued tensions between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya. There is also a risk that tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan may have adverse effects on UNISFA, and thus the security situation in Abyei and beyond.
The combination of the conflict potential in Abyei, and a possible security vacuum due to a sudden exit of Ethiopian troops, gives us cause for serious concern. It is, therefore, appropriate that we reconfirm our commitment to UNISFA at this critical time.
There is no doubt that UNISFA plays an invaluable role in providing security and stability in Abyei. We also acknowledge their efforts in building dialogue and trust between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities.
The inclusion of women in these efforts seem to have been particularly effective; as demonstrated in the meeting in Aweil in February this year, where- despite the failure of the conference to reach a formal agreement- the women of the two communities were able to find common ground. We strongly encourage the ongoing engagement of UNISFA in supporting women-led peace initiatives in Abyei.
For UNISFA to be able to deliver on its mandate effectively, it is critical that outstanding visas for the Formed Police Units are issued; that the Athony airstrip is operationalised; and that the deployment of a civilian Deputy Head of Mission is approved. We also urge the Sudanese and South Sudanese authorities to permit the deployment of human rights expertise.
We believe that the implementation of joint mechanisms - as stipulated in the June 2011 agreement - is important. It will strengthen cooperation, and build trust between the communities on the ground. We particularly call on the parties to organise a meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee without delay.
Another significant step would be for South Sudan to nominate personnel to the joint police service. Protection of civilians and the rule of law are the basis for peaceful development. And there can be no doubt that the people living in Abyei deserve a sustainable solution. The key to this rests with the governments in Khartoum and Juba.
A long-term and sustainable solution to the status of Abyei cannot be found without the political will and courage of the parties. The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan should seize the opportunity of their close and friendly relations to craft an agreement on the final status of Abyei.