UN council votes to wind down Sudan’s UNMIS force

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The UN Security Council voted yesterday to wind down a peacekeeping force in Sudan that was operating in volatile border areas, but said it was willing to keep working there until new security arrangements are agreed.

The six-year-old UNMIS mission had a mandate for up to 10,000 peacekeeping troops in Sudan, but it expired with South Sudan’s independence on Saturday.

The mission is being replaced in South Sudan by a peacekeeping force of 7,000 and in a disputed territory, Abyei, by a mandate for a force of 4,200 Ethiopian troops.

Overall, the creation of these two missions means troop numbers in Sudan and South Sudan as a whole will rise by about 1,200 after UNMIS expires.

But Khartoum’s reluctance to have a continuing UN peacekeeping presence means that about 3,000 UNMIS troops will have to leave Sudan, where they were operating mainly in violent territories bordering the south. The resolution, adopted unanimously yesterday, calls for those peacekeepers to have completed withdrawal by August 31.

Several nations including the United States and Britain said they deeply regretted having to wind down the force, citing concerns about the impact it would have on civilians, particularly in two border regions — South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They called for an end to violence.

“The US is sending a clear message along with other council members that it wants the UN to remain in the two areas especially at this critical juncture,” Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN said at the Security Council.

The end of UNMIS means peacekeepers will start packing their bags to depart, tents will be taken down and security equipment will be collected. Most of the 3,000 troops are in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, with a few in Khartoum.

“Sadly, UNMIS’s presence is still needed in Southern Kordofan state where we continue to be deeply concerned by reports of ongoing violations of human rights,” said Britain’s UN Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant.

The resolution also calls for UN chief Ban Ki-moon to consult with the parties and the African Union on options for UN support to new security arrangements in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. It says that it is willing to continue UN operations with the consent of the parties until those new security arrangements are in place.

“We continue to be deeply concerned about the fighting in Southern Kordofan, the displacement of civilians and the ensuing humanitarian crisis,” said Rice.

Rice said she called on the government of Sudan “yet again to reconsider its demand that UNMIS cease its activities in the Republic of Sudan.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are in north Sudan but include large populations who sided with the south during the civil war.

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