New York – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for calm in Abyei, an area contested by Sudan and South Sudan, following the killing of a top tribal chief and a UN peacekeeper from the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), as tensions in the area reportedly remain high today.
“Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief DengKuol Deng and a UNISFA peacekeeper in an attack by a Misseriya assailant on a UNISFA convoy in the Abyei Area,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement on 4 May.
Two other peacekeepers were seriously wounded in yesterday’s incident which seems to have pitted Ngok Dinka farmers against ethnic Misseriya pastoralist tribesmen. The groups have repeatedly clashed in the past, particularly in the area between Sudan and South Sudan which lacks clearly demarcated borders.
In the statement, the Secretary-General extended his deepest condolences to the Ngok Dinka community and the Government of Ethiopia, the home country of the UN peacekeeper killed in the incident, as well as to the families of those killed and injured.
“The Secretary-General urges the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan and the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities to remain calm and avoid any escalation of this unfortunate event,” the spokesperson noted.
“This proves again how crucially important it is for the two Governments to establish the temporary institutions as stipulated in the 20 June 2011 Agreement and continue discussions on the final status of the Abyei Area,” the statement continued.
The Agreement, signed by the Government of Sudan and representatives of South Sudan ahead of its official independence, calls for demilitarization of Abeyi and the establishment of an administrative and police service.
The UN Security Council established UNISFA the following week to oversee progress on the Agreement, and authorized the blue helmets to use force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.
In a Tweet today, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Toby Lanzer, said the situation in Abeyi is “tense.” Mr. Lanzer, who is also the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, added that “UNISFA is expanding patrols with aim of maintaining calm.”
As a priority, UNMISS worked to diffuse ethnic tensions in the country. In February, the Mission’s head, Hilde Johnson took part in a three-day peace conference between the Misseriya and Dinka Malual peoples. She pledged the ongoing support of UNMISS and the broader international community, whether in logistics, transport or “quiet advice,” to any peace initiatives in the region.