UN Peacekeeping chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, has raised concern about “trust deficit” between the two main communities in the disputed Abyei region between Sudan and South Sudan.
Lacroix told the Security Council on Thursday at UN headquarters, New York that trust between the two communities had continued to be a great concern.
The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria report that Lacroix briefed the Council on the work of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, UNISFA, and the UN Interim Security Force in the oil-rich border area.
He urged the Council to extend its mandate for another six months, through October 15.
The Force has supported dialogue between the nomadic Misseriya and pastoral Ngok Dinka communities, including to address incidents of violence that occurred in recent months.
Last week alone, 29 people were killed, and 30 wounded, in intercommunal clashes.
“These deaths and injuries could have been avoided had there been more trust between the two communities at all levels,” Lacroix said.
He said the government of the two countries should renew their engagement while UNISFA continued its community engagement, stepped up patrols, and encouraged use of conflict resolution mechanisms.
“It is – first and foremost – for the Governments of the Sudan and South Sudan to renew their engagement on the final status of Abyei,” he added.
Lacroix urged ambassadors to continue to support the Abyei Joint Programme to promote areas of shared interest for the two communities, such as transhumance, border management, and protection mechanisms for women, children and vulnerable groups.
The UN peacekeeping chief said significant progress had been made since the programme was proposed in September, and consultations with women, youth, elders and other community members were now at an advanced stage.
According to him, UNISFA continues to face challenges in documenting human rights violations due to a lack of expertise.
He said that although a team was granted temporary visas in order to conduct an assessment mission in March.
“There was also small but important progress with regard to the Parties’ obligations towards improving the meaningful participation of women in decision-making.
“In the Ngok Dinka community, a woman was appointed in each of the 13 traditional courts,” he added.
Lacroix further reported that the humanitarian situation in Abyei had deteriorated since his last briefing in October, with the number of people requiring aid rising from 103,000 to 240,000.
This was largely due to deadly violence between Twic Dinka and Ngok Dinka communities earlier in the year that left more than 25 people dead, including two humanitarian workers.
UNISFA also supports a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which ensures peace in the demilitarised zone along the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
A new force is present in JBVMM locations that are operational and is ready to work in all areas previously agreed by the parties.
In addition, Lacroix emphasised the need to ensure the safety and security of UNISFA peacekeepers.
He said patrols suffered three direct attacks in the past two months alone, including one last week that involved a rocket-propelled grenade.
Similarly, the new UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Ms Hannah Teteh, who also underlined the need to settle the final status of Abyei.
Addressing progress on outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan, she reported that momentum had decreased in the wake of the October 2021 coup in Khartoum, though preparations are underway for further engagement.
Teteh said South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had agreed to focus on cooperation along the border, starting with an approach to peace through development of “unitised” oil fields, including in Abyei.