Abyei peacekeeping force boosted

The Security Council approved an extra 1,126 troops for the UN peacekeeping force.

UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon. Picture: UN.

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council approved on Wednesday an extra 1,126 troops for a UN peacekeeping force in the flashpoint Abyei region, claimed by Sudan and South Sudan and a base for several armed groups.

The 15-member council extended for six months the mandate of the mission, known as UNISFA, and boosted to 5,326 the number of troops, provided by Ethiopia, in the province, prized for fertile land and oil reserves.

"The presence of armed groups inside the Safe Demilitarised Zone remains a considerable security concern," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in a report that requested the increase in peacekeepers.

South Sudan split from its northern neighbour in 2011 under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war. Like South Sudan, Abyei was meant to have an independence referendum, agreed under the 2005 deal, but Sudan and South Sudan have been unable to agree which tribal members should participate.

UN peacekeepers have been administering Abyei since Sudan seized it in May 2011 following an attack on a convoy of peacekeepers and Sudanese soldiers which the United Nations blamed on southern forces. Khartoum later withdrew its forces under a UN peace plan.

"Only a lasting solution to the final status of Abyei can end the recurring cycle of violence," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told reporters on Wednesday.

Earlier this month the African Union called for Sudan and South Sudan to find a solution on Abyei after a tribal leader and an Ethiopian peacekeeper were killed.

Kuwal Deng Mayok, the chief of the Dinka tribe allied to South Sudan, was killed by a member of the Misseriya tribe in Abyei claimed by Khartoum and Juba. One Ethiopian peacekeeper and 15 Misseriya, who are allied to Sudan, also died, according to the UN and the Misseriya.

The Dinka and the Arab Misseriya both call Abyei home.