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Sudan Army misses deadline to withdraw from Abyei

If global leaders don't press Khartoum to pull back from the disputed Abyei region, it will signal to Sudan that it can resolve disputes militarily, rather than politically, writes guest blogger Amanda Hsiao.

By Amanda HsiaoGuest blogger / October 7, 2011



Sudanese government troops remain in the disputed border region of Abyei, in contempt of a deadline agreed to by northern and southern officials that all troops would withdraw from the area by last Friday.

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In public remarks, Sudanese officials have been intransigent — and misleading — about why the deadline was not met. As reported by Reuters, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saeed said:

We are not against a withdrawal but we are waiting for the complete deployment of the Ethiopian troops. So far only half of the Ethiopian troops are on the ground. […] A withdrawal without the complete deployment of the Ethiopian troops would disrupt Abyei's administration. The [Ethiopia] agreement says the withdrawal will come after the complete [U.N.] deployment.

Sudan’s deputy information minister made similar remarks to AFP.

In May, the Sudanese army invaded and occupied Abyei, prompting over 100,000 people to flee. In response, the international community pushed the two parties toward an agreement that set up temporary political and security arrangements for the area until a final resolution — on whether Abyei belongs to the North or the South — was decided.

Contrary to what Sudanese officials are saying publicly, the withdrawal of both northern and southern forces was never explicitly made contingent on either the full deployment of Ethiopian peacekeepers or the status of the Abyei administration. If anything, the language of the agreement itself and the Security Council resolution that mandated the Ethiopian peacekeeping force initially left the exact timing of the troop withdrawal — and how it would be tied to the deployment of peacekeepers — vague.

But with the signing of a withdrawal timeline in early September, which not only set a final deadline for demilitarization, but laid out intermediary deadlines for both sides to gradually pull back, it was clear that the expectation would be for troops to withdraw by September 30, regardless of other moving pieces of the agreement.

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