Sudan: Heavy fighting in Abyei causes massive displacement

Southern Sudanese returnees await departure from Khartoum before traveling to Bentiu, Unity State. Credit: UN Photo/Paul Banks
On 19 May an UNMIS convoy transporting Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Joint Integration Units (JIU) equipment and soldiers came under fire. The incident triggered heavy fighting between SAF and SPLA spre

On 19 May, an UNMIS convoy transporting Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Joint Integration Units (JIU) equipment and soldiers came under fire. The convoy was transporting 200 SAF troops to Abyei as part of the Kadugli Agreement deployment plan, aimed at defusing tensions in the disputed border state town of Abyei.

Over the past two days, fighting intensified in Abyei, as well as in the villages north and east of the town, and heavy shelling of Abyei town took place throughout Saturday 21 May. On the same day, all NGO personnel in Abyei relocated to Agok. Due to security concerns, some NGO personnel have now been relocated from Agok to Turalei and Wunrok in Twic County, Warrap State. Turalei is approximately 90 km south of Agok and Wunrok is 20 km southeast of Turalei. The security situation continues to be monitored. Reports that SAF troops are moving southwards from Abyei town are causing concerns.

The latest reports indicate that most of the civilian population, including women and children, has fled Abyei town with very few belongings. Although numbers cannot be confirmed at this time due to restrictions on movement, reports suggest that thousands of people have headed southwards towards Agok.

Humanitarian agencies are still unable to conduct needs assessments due to continued insecurity/fighting and access to civilian populations in Abyei area remains difficult. The humanitarian community is focusing on determining the exact whereabouts of the civilians who fled Abyei town and the surrounding villages. All necessary measures will be taken to ensure that their protection and basic needs are met.

On 22 May, a team comprised of WFP, UNHCR and UNICEF reached Mayan Abun, 50 km south of Abyei town. The team reported small numbers of people from Abyei and the INGO GOAL has registered approximately 400 people in Mayan Abun.

Yesterday, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir issued a decree dissolving the Abyei Council. President al Bashir also issued a decree removing the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Abyei area, as well as the Heads of the Five Administrations. In a press conference held in Juba today, the Government of Southern Sudan called on the international community to help restore calm and ensure that civilians are protected.

More>> OCHA Situation Reports No1 and No2

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