The UN Security Council unanimously approved a US-drafted resolution authorizing deployment of 4 200 Ethiopian troops to Sudan’s disputed Abyei region for a six-month period.
The resolution establishes a new UN peacekeeping force, called the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei, or UNISFA. Its adoption comes a week after north and south Sudan signed a deal in Addis Ababa to demilitarize Abyei and let Ethiopian troops monitor the peace.
The resolution said the 15-nation council was “deeply concerned by the current situation in the Abyei Area, and by all acts of violence committed against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law including the killing and displacement of … civilians.”
Although the resolution gives UNISFA the authority to take “necessary actions” — which diplomats said meant using deadly force — in self-defense and to protect civilians and ensure aid delivery, it does not call for UNISFA troops to monitor compliance with human rights laws, as most UN forces do, Reuters reports.
Instead, the resolution “requests the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) to ensure that effective human rights monitoring is carried out” and report the results to the council.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Ban would do his best to ensure proper human rights monitoring in Abyei.
Washington warned the north and south not to break the peace.
“Now only days away from the date of independence for South Sudan, it is imperative that the leaders of Sudan and south Sudan live up to their responsibilities,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in a statement.
“The government of Sudan must prevent any further escalation of this crisis by ceasing its military actions immediately,” she said.
South Sudan is due to secede from the north to form a new nation on July 9. But the north and south have yet to agree on who will control Abyei, stirring fears a long-running quarrel over the region could sour the secession and could spark a broader conflict.
Normally it takes at least three months for UN peacekeepers to deploy, but diplomats said UNISFA could deploy much sooner than that to Abyei, a region straddling the north and south that some believe may have some oil reserves.
One Security Council diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the UN peackeeping officials informed council members last week that an advance force of some 1,300 Ethiopian troops could be on the ground in Abyei before July 9. Full deployment would take much longer to achieve, the envoy said.
In a power play ahead of the split, Khartoum sent tanks and troops into Abyei on May 21, outraging the south, human rights groups and regional and global powers who called it a violation of the 2005 deal that ended Sudan’s long civil war.
The move followed an attack on a convoy of northern troops and UN peacekeepers which the north blamed on the south and which the UN said was likely to have been carried out by southern police or soldiers.
As Khartoum moved in, tens of thousands of villagers fled south in a panicked exodus to escape looting and burning.
Several council diplomats expressed concern that there would soon be up to four separate peacekeeping forces in Sudan — one in Abyei, a joint UN-African Union force in Darfur, the UNMIS force that monitors compliance with the 2005 peace deal, and a new force for the soon-to-be-independent south.
“We need to think about integrating different missions in Sudan rather than creating more separate permanent missions,” a council diplomat said. Another envoy echoed his views.