UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday called for a peaceful resolution [press release] to the escalating conflict in Abyei, the disputed oil-producing region between North and South Sudan. Last week a convoy of UN peacekeepers transporting troops of the northern Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) was attacked just north of Abyei, which is claimed by both sides but has been held by the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) since the 2005 peace deal that stifled the country's bloody civil war. Over the weekend the SAF responded to the assault on its troops by attacking and taking control of Abyei itself. The situation has raised fears of reigniting the north-south conflict that left 1.5 million dead. Pillay urged that civilians be afforded safe passage and protected pursuant to international human rights and humanitarian law. Stated Pillay:
I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sidesthis is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan. I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations. ... I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.Since the northern forces took over, the UN has confirmed reports of bombing and shelling in and around Abyei by the SAF, as well as widespread looting and burning of houses. Aid workers estimate 40,000 people have fled the area [BBC report]. While the UN has said that attacks on its peacekeepers amount to war crimes under international law, both the UN and the US have called on the northern troops to withdraw from Abyei. From the northern capital of Khartoum President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile] has stated he will not withdraw troops from the region and insisted that the area belongs to the north.
South Sudan is scheduled to become independent this summer. A total of 98.83 percent [SSRC materials] of nearly 3.8 million southern Sudanese voters voted for secession [JURIST report] in January's Southern Sudan's Independence Referendum, according to the final polling results released by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission [official website]. After the official results were announced in Khartoum, al-Bashir, who campaigned against secession, issued a formal decree accepting the result [JURIST report] of the referendum. With the South's secession, the world's 193rd country will be announced on July 9 in the southern capital of Juba.