Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at UNSC Briefing on The situation in Abyei/UNISFA
Statement26 April 2021
Thank you very much indeed Mr. President.
And I want to Thank you Under-Secretary-General Mr. Jean Pierre Lacroix and Special Envoy for your briefings this morning.
Ireland welcomes the continued improvement in bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan’s contribution to the conclusion of the Juba Peace Agreement was a welcome recent bright spot in a turbulent period for the region, and it is evidence also of how good relations between South Sudan and Sudan can contribute to peace and security in the Horn. I very much welcome that both representatives of both countries are here with us today. And I also want to welcome Ambassador Taye of Ethiopia amongst us.
However, this progress now needs to be felt in Abyei. A key aim for both parties must be to ensure the protection and security of the people of Abyei and their access to the basic public services. Political engagement on the establishment of joint interim institutions such as the Abyei Police is critical.
We’re worried about the incidents of local level violence and disruptions to humanitarian assistance, as set out this morning by Under Secreary General Lacroix. impact but there have been positive signs. But there have been positive signs.. That both the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities took part in the February 2021 Peace Conference shows that on the ground, some progress is possible.
We strongly welcome the participation of women from both sides in the Forum. It was powerful to see that they crossed community lines in order to stand together to denounce violence and call for peace. As those with experience of building peace know, peace is a process not a moment and I will never tire of saying it, the participation of women is fundamental and critical. I also believe that the commitments by both communities to engage further on peaceful transhumance is very important.
In the context of improving bilateral relations, it is regrettable that we have not seen a stronger engagement in the joint structures and mechanisms. These are key for an agreement on the final status for Abyei and the demarcation of the border. Steps such as holding a meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee and forming the joint team to investigate the attacks in Nai-Nai and Kolom in January 2020 would help.
We thank Ethiopia for its contribution to the peacekeeping mission. Of course, we cannot simply view the situation in Abyei in a vacuum. Relations between Ethiopia and Sudan are at a sensitive moment. We urge calm and restraint and for Ethiopia and Sudan to resolve their differences through dialogue.
As the Secretary General has indicated, the security situation in Abyei is tense and unpredictable. The reports of intercommunal violence are troubling. In that context, any dramatic shift in the make-up of the UNISFA force would not be in the best interests of the people or stability of Abyei.
As always, the role of the region is crucial in Abyei, as it is on the Al Fashaga border, in the GERD disputes and elsewhere. The communiqué of the African Union Peace and Security Council last November on the situation in Abyei is a welcome one. Enhanced efforts by the African Union to promote political mediations will be very important.
Ireland echoes, Mr President, the three key calls of the UNSG. First, we call for the appointment of a civilian deputy head of mission for UNISFA. Second, we call on Sudan to grant outstanding visa requests for UN police personnel; the UNISFA police component currently operates with less than 8 percent of its authorised strength. While the recent granting of some visas is welcome, short of the setting up of the joint police force, more visas will need to be granted. Third, we call for the operationalisation of the Athony airstrip, which is crucial for MEDEVAC. We also support the Secretary-General’s recommendation to deploy more human rights expertise to UNISFA.
Finally, Mr President, let me reiterate, a longer term more sustainable solution in Abyei is needed and we call on all parties to strive to continue to achieve that. We commend UNISFA for the work it is doing, in extremely challenging circumstances and we support the extension of UNISFA’s mandate for a further six months.