Tuesday, July 21, 2009


UN may use force in Sudan’s Abyei to protect civilians
July 20, 2009 (KHARTOUM)
The UN peacekeepers present in Sudan’s disputed region of Abyei will use force if necessary to protect civilians, its top official said today.

On Wednesday the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague will deliver a highly anticipated ruling on the borders of Abyei and the fate of the oil fields in the region as either being part of North Sudan or the South.
Many inside and outside Sudan fear that the court’s decision may spark violence particularly for the side that feels the ruling is unfavorable.
“We do have in our mandate a Chapter VII paragraph….with regard to protection of civilians. We are mandated to protect civilians who are in imminent danger of physical harm within our capabilities and in accordance with our mandate without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the two governments, the GoSS [Government of Southern Sudan] and the government of Sudan,” said the UNSG Special Representative for Sudan Ashraf Qazi.
“That is Chapter VII obligation within our mandate and we will fulfill that. However, we must never loose sight of the fact where the primary responsibility lies. That was the case last year and will be the case this year also,” Qazi added.
However he added that reinforcements had been sent to beef up the existing peacekeeping force in the district as a precaution.
Last year, fighting erupted in the town between GoS and GoSS forces killing dozens and displacing 50,000 from their homes.
The former US special envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson, who visited Abyei after the fighting, accused UN peacekeepers of hiding in their barracks during the fighting instead of protecting Sudanese civilians in line with their mandate.
The UN initially rejected the charge but the world body later issued a report stating that “lessons” were learned from the way peacekeepers acted during the incident.
Qazi today stressed the importance of the commitment of both sides to peaceful implementation, which “they have reiterated in a number of occasions”.
The US special envoy Scott Gration, who is currently in Sudan, is scheduled to fly to Abyei the day before the decision by the PCA is rendered.