Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) in charge of Peace Operations

‘Final status of Abyei remains stalled’-UN’s Lacroix

The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Security Council that political progress towards the determination of the final status of Abyei “remains stalled” since the outbreak of the war in Sudan.

The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, on Tuesday, briefed the Security Council that political progress towards the determination of the final status of Abyei and the resolution of issues related to the Sudan-South Sudan border “remains stalled” since the outbreak of the war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in April 2023. 

Despite positive engagement in the months before that crisis, ongoing fighting “is likely to continue to seriously impact the chances for constructive dialogue between the two countries on these topics”, he reported. 

According to Lacroix, for its part, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has continued to prioritize efforts to improve intercommunal relations on the ground in Abyei.  He said the Force has also been at the forefront of efforts to maintain reconciliation-including working with UN agencies, funds, and programs to facilitate a pre-migration conference, which led to an agreement that included mechanisms to monitor and resolve disputes during the seasonal cattle migration.

“The mission’s continued focus on relations between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya is critical to ensure this progress is sustained,” he stressed while noting that clashes between the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka increased.  Tensions remain high, and UNISFA continues to be on alert to protect civilians should clashes reoccur.  Against that backdrop, he urged the Government of South Sudan to strengthen its engagement with relevant communities so that further violence can be prevented.  He also expressed concern over the presence of South Sudanese security forces in southern Abyei since October 2022, including additional troop deployments that took place in late March and early April.

“This presence is in violation of the 2011 Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on Abyei and relevant Security Council resolutions,” he stated, calling on Juba to withdraw all security personnel from Abyei and to ensure full freedom of movement for UNISFA in line with the status-of-forces agreement.

He expressed further concern over a series of clashes between members of the Ngok Dinka and Nuer communities in southern and central Abyei in January and February, which resulted in significant civilian casualties. UNISFA moved proactively to protect civilians, and two peacekeepers lost their lives during this response.

Condemning these attacks, Lacroix echoed the Secretary-General’s call on the relevant authorities to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. 

Turning to the humanitarian situation in Abyei, which “remained difficult,” he reported that communities face challenges in acquiring essential goods and services and that there are continued inflows of people displaced by the conflict in Sudan.  Despite delays associated with that conflict, UNISFA’s reconfiguration into a UN multinational peacekeeping force is expected to be completed before the onset of the upcoming rainy season, he reported.

He went on to emphasize that rule-of-law support for the people of Abyei “remains as important as ever”, as the Sudan crisis results in the continued movement of displaced people into Abyei and the insecurity associated with ongoing intercommunal violence continues.  To ensure coordinated, whole-of-mission support in this regard, UNISFA developed a rule-of-law strategy and action plan in November 2023 after consultation with key stakeholders. 

“Amidst strained relations between communities, the mission also continues its efforts to promote human rights, including advocacy and monitoring of violations and abuses,” he said.  Expressing appreciation to troop- and police-contributing countries “for their important contributions in an insecure environment”, he also thanked Council members for their continued support of UNISFA.

Meanwhile, the representative of South Sudan to the UN, Cecilia Adeng, reiterated her country’s determination to work with UNISFA and other relevant stakeholders to address the challenges in Abyei and advance the peace process in the region. She said that despite the challenges posed by the ongoing conflict in Sudan, which have impacted the political process in Abyei, South Sudan remains committed to engaging in dialogue and promoting peace within its borders.

“The efforts of President Salva Kiir Mayardit in addressing intercommunal tensions in South Sudan must be commended”, she said, highlighting his meetings with the Juba-appointed Chief Administrator of Abyei and state governors, as well as the issuance of a presidential order calling for peace and accountability.

Turning to troop deployments in Abyei, she acknowledged the concerns raised and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to adhere to the 20 June 2011 Agreement. 

“The complex security situation therein is characterized by inter-communal clashes, animal rustling, and kidnappings, exacerbated by the arms proliferation,” she observed, condemning all acts of violence.  She further condemned attacks on UNISFA, noting that “the safety and security of UN peacekeepers are paramount.”