North Sudan said yesterday it wanted U.N. peacekeepers to leave when the south secedes on July 9, shrugging off international pressure to extend the mission to protect civilians caught up in fresh fighting.
Aid groups say tens of thousands of civilians have fled, and an unknown number have been killed in bombing raids and clashes between the northern army and south-allied fighters in Southern Kordofan, the north’s main oil state that borders the south.
Khartoum denies targeting civilians and says it is fighting an insurgency.
More than 10,000 peacekeeping soldiers, police and monitors are deployed in north and south Sudan by the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) – a body set up to monitor a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between Sudan’s north and south.
The UNMIS mandate is due to expire just at the climax of that peace deal when the south becomes independent on Saturday, a split that was decided in a January referendum promised by the 2005 accord.
Security Council diplomats told Reuters last week the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China were joining forces to press Khartoum to allow UNMIS to remain for three months after the south secedes.
But senior northern government official Rabie Abdelati ruled out any extension, saying northern Sudanese police and military forces could handle security in flashpoint border areas.
“We are not in a position to accept any forces after the announcement of the independence of south Sudan. That is according to the terms of the CPA (the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement),” Abdelati told Reuters.
“The Sudanese armed and security forces are capable of realising and preserving peace and security in northern Sudan … This is a decision for Sudan, not for Western countries,” he added.
A senior humanitarian official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the UNMIS withdrawal would have a devastating impact on civilians in Southern Kordofan and other disputed areas.
“It’s a scandal … There’s no way the Security Council didn’t see this coming,” the official said.
“The peace deal hasn’t been fulfilled. There are so many things that are outstanding. There is armed conflict going on. Major human rights concerns. It seems UNMIS will be asked to pack up and leave.”
UNMIS declined to give a statement.
A U.N. source in the southern capital Juba confirmed UNMIS’ mandate expires on July 9, under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement agreed six years ago.
Peacekeepers and hundreds of civilian staff were still waiting for clear direction from the U.N. Security Council about whether to stay at their posts in the north, or start packing, with only days to go before the deadline, the source said.
“That’s a million dollar question. Nobody knows … We are waiting for Security Council instruction,” said the source, when asked whether UNMIS would close down on July 9.
Sudan has agreed to allow a contingent of Ethiopian U.N. peacekeepers to patrol the disputed Abyei area after the split, but they would only be able to monitor, said Abdelati.
North Sudan’s Darfur region, the scene of an eight-year insurgency, is monitored by a separate joint U.N./African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force that does not have the same deadline. Individual U.N. missions, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme would also not be affected.