The final status of the Abyei region remains one of the main outstanding unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan. Escalating tensions in 2011 between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army culminated in a major offensive on Abyei by the Sudan Armed Forces in May 2011. The fighting resulted in the total destruction of the town of Abyei and surrounding villages, the displacement of over 100,000 people, and additional contamination from mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The UN responded to this with Security Council Resolution 1990 (2011) establishing the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and deployed 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers.
On 2 August 2011, a landmine accident in Abyei led to the deaths of four UNISFA peacekeepers and injuries to an additional seven. In response to the threat, UNMAS contracted and deployed a route clearance team to open priority routes. The work of these teams dramatically expanded UNISFA’s ability to patrol throughout its area of responsibility.
In December 2011, Security Council Resolution 2024 expanded UNISFA’s mandate to include support to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM); and UNMAS began planning operational support for the JBVMM Teams that will be stationed along the 2,200km border between Sudan and South Sudan. Furthermore, Security Council Resolutions 2075, 2104 and 2126 expanded UNMAS’ role to include identification and clearance of mines in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone to ensure freedom of movement for the JBVMM.
The JBVMM Teams will work along and across the 2,200 km international border between Sudan and South Sudan. This area is not only extremely difficult to operate in (due to the lack of roads and infrastructure), but also one that periodically experiences armed conflict. It is therefore vital that the National Monitors and UN Military Observers have freedom of movement across this difficult terrain, and at the same time, are protected from mines and ERW in order to carry out their missions safely and effectively. JBVMM patrols are currently halted as the Parties have not agreed on the “zero-line” of the Safe and Demilitarized Border Zone.
The UNMAS programme has been pivotal in enabling peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, and the safe return of refugees and internally displaced people. Funding for UNMAS (in support of UNISFA) for the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 is $18.2 million. Further resource mobilisation is underway to raise additional funds to support UNISFA’s JBVMM expanded border monitoring mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 2104, 2075 and 2126.
Updated May 2014