Report of the Secretary-General on Situation in Abyei (S/2019/319) [EN/AR]

I. Introduction

The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2445 (2018), in which the Council requested to be informed of progress in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). It covers the period since the issuance of my previous report (S/2018/923), from 16 October 2018 to 15 April 2019. The report provides an update on and a n analysis of the security situation, the relevant political developments and the operating environment of the mission. It also outlines the progress made to reconfigure the mission, including a reduction in troops and an increase in police personnel, as well as recommendations for further revisions.

II. Abyei

Conflict dynamics and security situation

During the reporting period, the security situation remained generally calm, with sporadic incidents of violence. The conflict in Abyei continued to be characterized by layers of parallel dynamics, namely intercommunal violence primarily between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, criminality and the presence of armed elements. There were reports of 13 violent incidents involving the use of small arms, in which nine persons were killed. They included three armed robberies, all of which were perpetrated against those travelling to or from the Amiet common market. One violent incident included shooting aimed at a UNISFA patrol, although there were no casualties. Criminality remained the greatest challenge, with 1,675 incidents during the reporting period, comprising 1,409 petty crimes and 266 serious crimes, including murder and robbery. Most of the criminal incidents remained intracommunal and were a consequence of the adverse economic situation in Abyei and surrounding areas, as well as the prevalence of small arms.

Intercommunal tensions between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya normally peak during the annual migration of the Misseriya and their cattle southwards through the Abyei Area. The migration season began in October, with 37,000 seasonal Misseriya herdsmen having entered the Area. Most of the intercommunal violence noted during the season stems from animal rustling incidents. There were 16 such incidents during the reporting period, resulting in two fatalities. Because the incidents of rustling have the potential to cause wider intercommunal tensions, UNISFA responds to each incident promptly by dispatching patrols and initiating an investigation. In seven of the incidents, UNISFA was able to track and retrieve some of the stolen animals, and in two incidents, all of the animals were recovered.

While the joint peace committee remains the essential community-led mechanism for bringing together both communities for dialogue to dissipate anxieties and prevent violence, UNISFA also plays a key role in this regard. Following an animal rustling incident on 17 February, intercommunal tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka increased at the Amiet common market, and a confrontation ensued. As a result of its presence at the market, UNISFA was able to intervene swiftly and prevent violence.

During the current migration season, intercommunal tensions rose following the killing of a Misseriya herdsman and the theft of his cattle near the Amiet common market on 17 November. A joint peace committee was convened to discuss the incident, on 22 November. The Ngok Dinka denied any involvement, adding that the perpetrators came from outside the Abyei Area. Nevertheless, the Misseriya held the Ngok Dinka responsible for not having intercepted the cattle, which were reportedly taken to Twic County, in South Sudan, through Ngok Dinka areas. Tensions came to a head at a subsequent joint peace committee meeting, on 6 December, when the Ngok Dinka refused to pay compensation, or blood money, for the aforementioned killing of the Misseriya herdsman. Furthermore, the Ngok Dinka accused the Misseriya of carrying out a retaliatory attack on 10 December near Kol-Ngol-Nyang-Colognal, a village situated between Rumamier and Marial Achak, Sector South, in which two of their community members had been killed. The Misseriya threatened the Ngok Dinka with harm if they were to go to the Amiet common market. In addition, the Misseriya boycotted the annual pre-migration conference until the compensation was paid.

On the following day, 7 December, Misseriya traders refused to open their shops in the Amiet common market and prevented the market from functioning, with the exception of the sale of perishable goods. On 9 December, the Ngok Dinka confronted the Misseriya at the market, although there was no violence. In the following days, UNISFA held separate meetings with the two communities to calm tensions. On 12 December, the acting Head of Mission and Force Commander convened a joint peace committee meeting with both communities, at which they continued to blame each other. Nonetheless, the market resumed all trading activities on 12 December, which highlighted the shared need for the market of both communities. The interdependent relationship continued to be demonstrated during the reporting period, including on 30 December, when Ngok Dinka and Misseriya community leaders were able to de-escalate tensions between the two groups following a subsequent incident at the market, in which a member of the Ngok Dinka was killed by a member of the Misseriya.

With the Amiet common market having become an economic hub between Sudan and South Sudan, Abyei has risen in importance. There are reported to be some 30,000 people who use the market, which has also drawn in communities from the neighbouring areas in the Sudan and South Sudan. Periodically, there are tensions in the Abyei Area among communities who enter the Area. During the reporting period, tensions with the Nuer, who entered the Abyei Area from Unity State, in South Sudan, continued. Violence broke out between the Nuer and the Ngok Dinka in the Amiet common market on 19 February, when 3 Ngok Dinka were killed and another 10 wounded, in addition to one UNISFA peacekeeper who was injured while intervening.

The presence of armed elements in the Abyei Area also continued to have the potential to trigger intercommunal tensions. During the reporting period, UNISFA received eight reports from residents regarding the presence of armed elements. Most of the sightings were in Sector Centre and Sector South. UNISFA was able to confirm the presence of one possible armed group of 51 men, who were suspected to be rebel elements from South Sudan. The group stated that it was returning to Wau, in South Sudan, under the terms of the revitalized peace agreement. The mission conducted an investigation and allowed the group to proceed to South Sudan.

UNISFA also continued to confiscate weapons in the Abyei Area. During the reporting period, the mission seized nine small arms from three members of the Misseriya and two members of the Ngok Dinka.

Source: UN Security Council