Ethiopia may withdraw support for Abyei peacekeeping mission

May 17, 2014 (JUBA) – The Ethiopian government has warned it may not continue to provide military support to the peacekeeping mission in the oil producing Abyei region, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.

Ethiopian United Nations peacekeepers patrol the outskirts of the disputed Abyei town that straddles the border between Sudan and South Sudan September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu (SOUTH SUDAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)
UN peacekeepers from Ethiopia patrol the outskirts of the disputed Abyei town that straddles the border between Sudan and South Sudan on 16 September 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)

According to an internal report by the United Nations, which Sudan Tribune has seen, the Ethiopian government said it would reconsider its military commitment should both sides to the conflict fail to resolve their differences and take complete responsibility of the area.

“If recommitment by both governments is not made, then Ethiopia will reconsider its military commitment”, notes the Secretary General of the United Nations’ report.

The latest report covers the challenges with which the mission continues to grapple and presents the results of the United Nations’ strategic review of the mission that was conducted in April.

During the review, it adds, the Ethiopian government made it clear that unless Sudan and South Sudan begin to make progress on the joint management arrangements for Abyei, Ethiopia does not want to continue to provide troops.

The warning comes as the United Nations Security Council prepares to review the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the majority of which is provided by the government of Ethiopia.

It is expected that the Security Council will convene a closed consultation on Sudan and South Sudan on 19 May during which members are expected to come to a decision on renewing the mandate of the UNISFA on 22 May, or endorse the position of the Ethiopia government.

The Ethiopian government had stated that joint management of Abyei has become unsustainable as neither party had respected the terms of the agreement they made when the mission was established. It called on the African Union and United Nations to make a more concerted effort to revive the political process to set up the joint management arrangements.

South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that his government remains committed to fully implementing the September 2012 proposal as the basis for resolving the conflict over the area.

“The government of the republic of South Sudan under the leadership of President Salva Kiir has already made assurances of our commitment to fully implement the September 21, 2012, proposal by the African Union High Implementation Panel, as the basis of resolving the difference over this area”, Benjamin said in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

The minister sidestepped the questions about what his government would do should the Ethiopian government withdraw its military support to UNISFA.

(ST)