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JUBA/KHARTOUM - 28 Jun 2021

Sudan renews calls for withdrawal of Ethiopian army from Abyei

Sudan has renewed its request for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) serving in the UN peace-keeping force (UNISFA) in the disputed Abyei region and demanded that they be replaced with other forces from any African country.

Sudanese foreign affairs minister, Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, informed the United Nations about the request during a reception for the visiting United Nations Assistant Secretary-General in her office in Khartoum last week.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on the matter, the spokesperson for Sudan’s foreign ministry, Ambassador Mansour Boulad, said the request is based on the Ethiopian army’s changed position from a neutral army in peacekeeping to a force an aggressor on Sudanese territory.

Boulad disclosed that his country demands Ethiopian army withdrawal for purposes connected with its security, sovereignty, and safety of its lands and added that Ethiopia is currently claiming Sudanese areas. 

“The request is based on the Ethiopian army's changing position from neutral force to a force that is having activities and movements with unkind statements against the Sudanese lands and this is why Sudan extended its request and it is serious to see its request is implemented for purposes connected with its security,’’ Amb. Boulad said.

When asked to comment on the progress of talks about the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the ambassador said there is no headway but that Sudan has great interests in the dam and cannot keep silent on the matter, He added that Sudan has tried tirelessly to resolve the matter but Ethiopia insists on filling the dam and called all parties to put more pressure on Ethiopia so that it abides by the set laws.

Meanwhile, the deputy administrator of Abyei, Kon Manyiet, said Sudan has for a long time been making unilateral decisions on matters to Abyei and that the people of Abyei will not accept the request until Sudan and South Sudan reach an agreement on the matter.

“Of course, Sudan likes to make individual decisions over Abyei always since it started with the dissolution of joint-administrations, rejecting referendum and many decisions without consulting South Sudan and we heard a lot from the Sudanese foreign affairs minister, Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi with her vision of changing of the Ethiopian forces with other armies from mixed countries,” Manyiet said. “On the last issue, we don’t agree with Sudan over the request for withdrawal of the UNISFA forces from Abyei because their purpose for deployment in Abyei is not yet finished.’’

He said the Ethiopian troops were deployed to mitigate the dispute over the Abyei area and only leave after the matter was comprehensively resolved.

“They were deployed after disputes broke out between the two countries over the annexation of Abyei and we are urging the United Nations to maintain the current UNISFA forces until a final solution,” Manyiet said. “After that, a withdrawal plan will be made by both countries and it is not allowed for only one country to decide the withdrawal of the Ethiopian army from Abyei. Even Ethiopia should be a partner in every would-be agreement plus the international community and African communities.”

Eduard Hakim, South Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.