The status of the Abyei Region has remained one of the primary subjects of contention between Sudan and South Sudan since 2011. At that time, regional fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Sudan Armed Forces escalated, destroying the town of Abyei and surrounding villages. The conflict also displaced more than 100,000 and contaminated the land with mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Tension and insecurity in the Region continue to date.
The United Nations responded to the situation with Security Council resolution 1990 (2011), establishing the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), and the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers.
In August 2011, four UNISFA peacekeepers were killed and seven injured in a landmine accident. In response, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) contracted a clearance team to open priority routes. The work of the team has since expanded UNISFA’s ability to patrol the Abyei Region.
By December, Security Council resolution 2024 (2011) had expanded UNISFA’s mandate to include support to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM). UNMAS began planning operational support for JBVMM teams stationed along the 2,200 km border between Sudan and South Sudan. In addition, Security Council resolutions 2075, 2104, 2126, 2156 and 2179 expanded UNMAS’ role to include identification and clearance of landmines and ERW in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone to ensure JBVMM freedom of movement.
Challenges to the programme include Sudanese and South Sudanese Government commitment to implementing Security Council resolutions, i.e. JBVMM and the SDBZ.
Regional security also remains a significant challenge, impacting UNISFA’s freedom of movement and UNMAS operations in support of UNISFA.
While the ERW threat in the Abyei Region does not come from minefields, future conflicts may produce additional contamination from ERW and landmines, adding additional challenges to the program.
For the 2015 fiscal year, UNISFA allocated USD 25.4 million to UNMAS to support UNISFA’s JBVMM mandate to expand border monitoring under UN Security Council resolutions 2104, 2075, 2126, 2156 and 2179.
Updated February 2015