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UNISFA rebuts arming youth

By William Madouk


United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has rubbished a claim that the mission is equipping local youth in the Abyei box with guns.

Social media had alleged that commercial trucks carrying UNISFA contingent-owned equipment are heading to Abyei from the port of Mombasa in order to supply an armed group operating in the area.

In a statement seen by this outlet, the peacekeepers in the area termed the claim as a ‘concocted” report by rumormongers.

“UNISFA is concerned by disinformation circulating online and on social media, falsely accusing the mission of arming local youth in the Abyei Box,” partly reads the statement.

UNISFA believes the disinformation is targeted to escalate tensions in Abyei and emasculate the fairness of the UN peace mission.

“The false reports are being spread with the intention to escalate tensions in the Abyei area and undermine the mission’s impartiality,” it added.

The peacekeeper mission in Abyei further called on the public to ignore disinformation and desist from spreading it.

UNISFA said, due to inaccurate reporting, five trucks transporting UN-owned equipment containing logistics items en route to Abyei from Wau were diverted back to Wau for inspection by South Sudan’s authorities.

According to the UN peacekeeping mission, the trucks were subsequently released by the authorities after inspection.

But UNISFA also stated that due to the war in Sudan, all logistical supplies are currently shifted to Mombasa port via South Sudan to the Abyei Administrative Area.

“All logistics supplies of the mission, which were previously received through the Port of Sudan, are currently being shipped through the Port of Mombasa via South Sudan to Abyei, due to the ongoing crisis in Sudan,” they clarified.

The mission said it remains fully committed to implementing its mandate and continues to work closely with the local communities, authorities, and international partners to support peace and security in Abyei.

Criticism against UNISFA

This month, the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) urged the United Nations Interim Security Forces for Abyei (UNISFA) to surrender its mandate if it cannot protect innocent people in the area.

The committee was alarmed after more than 10 people were killed in the Abyei market on Friday, with others injured by youth believed to be from neighboring Warrap State.

The violence was directed at innocent people in the market, according to the press statement signed by Deng Arop Kuol, the co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC).

The committee urged the peacekeepers in the area to ensure that strong measures are developed to avoid such acts of violence against civilians.

Origin of clashes

The putative reason for this discontent was that some Twic Dinka claimed that Agok and Annet were located within Twic County, Warrap State.

The Ngok Dinka, however, consider the boundaries of Abyei to have been determined by a decision of the Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2009, and Agok and Annet to be part of the Abyei box.

Due to continuing conflict among the communities, a peace conference was held between the Ngok Dinka of Abyei and Twic Mayardit of Warrap State in April to end the conflict.

Among the resolutions reached were the cessation of hostilities, the free movement of people, the withdrawal of armed youth from neighboring communities allied with the warring parties, and the creation of a buffer zone.

Also in May 2023, the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) established a buffer zone to end inter-communal violence in the area. President Salva Kiir also formed a panel to investigate the root causes of the conflict.

Still, conflict reignited again between Twic and Ngok Dinka militias in September and October over alleged land encroachments, leading to dozens of casualties and thousands of people being displaced.

The clashes only emerged in 2017, when the Abyei Area Administration (AAA) began a land registry in Annet, a busy market near Agok in southern Abyei, according to a small army survey.

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