Fatalities of both peacekeepers and civilians in confrontations within the contested Abyei area.
According to media reports, there have been clashes between armed young people from opposing factions within the Dinka ethnic group over control of an administrative border in the oil-rich region, which is claimed by both countries.
The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) announced that violence broke out on Saturday in the regions of Nyinkuac, Majbong, and Khadian, resulting in injuries and the relocation of civilians to UNISFA bases.
Refuge from violence
UNISFA is working with local officials to confirm the figures of fatalities, injuries, and displacements. It has been reported that 52 civilians have died and 64 are seriously injured.
The Mission has granted individuals facing immediate danger the opportunity to find safety in certain camps, in accordance with its duty to safeguard civilians.
Peacekeepers under attack
On Sunday, a group of peacekeepers was moving injured civilians from a UNISFA facility to a hospital when they were suddenly attacked. Sadly, a peacekeeper from Pakistan lost their life and four other uniformed personnel, as well as a local civilian, were wounded.
The event occurred the day after the UNISFA base in Agok was assaulted, but the mission successfully defended it. One Ghanaian peacekeeper lost their life, leading the Mission to demand a prompt and comprehensive investigation.
On Monday, UNIFSA released a statement strongly denouncing the attacks on innocent civilians and peacekeepers. They stated that any violence towards “blue helmets” could potentially be classified as a war crime according to international law.
Call for investigation
The statement states that the Mission is taking all necessary actions to establish peace, which includes actively and strongly safeguarding civilians. The statement also emphasizes the urgency of conducting a prompt investigation in order to bring the responsible individuals to justice.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is deeply concerned about the violence that occurred in Abyei over the weekend, his Spokesperson said in a statement later on Monday.
The Secretary-General expressed strong disapproval of the aggression and assaults on UNISFA, and urges the governments of South Sudan and Sudan to promptly look into the incidents, with the support of UNISFA, and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Mr. Guterres conveyed his deepest condolences to the Government and people of Ghana and Pakistan, and to the families of the deceased civilians.
UN in Abyei
The UN Security Council created UNISFA in June 2011 due to increased violence, rising tensions, and displacement of people in the Abyei region. This was in anticipation of Southern Sudan’s declaration of independence from Sudan the next month.
In the weeks leading up to the Council’s decision, there were violent conflicts that resulted in over 100,000 individuals being displaced from their residences.
According to UN officials, the ongoing conflict between opposing military factions in Sudan has worsened the difficulties faced in Abyei. These officials provided a briefing to the Council in November.
The conflict has halted positive developments in communication between Sudan and South Sudan, causing discussions over the disputed area to be postponed.