(Updates with UN comment on displaced in fourth paragraph.)
June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Sudan has proposed that African peacekeepers patrol the disputed region of Abyei, along with northern and southern troops, and that a rotating administration be set up to run the area.
The plan by the authorities in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, calls for the replacement of United Nations peacekeepers now in Abyei with “forces that are more efficient and of an African nature,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on state-run SUNA news agency yesterday.
Sudan’s army seized the main town in Abyei on May 21 after accusing Southern Sudan’s security forces of attacking its troops while they were pulling out with a UN convoy. The UN Security Council urged the army to withdraw on concern the action could reignite the two-decade civil war in sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer that ended in 2005.
Since its occupation of Abyei, the Sudanese army has become entrenched in the region and has settled at Bahr al-Arab, or the Kiir River as it is known in the south. More than 45,000 people fled the region, the UN World Food Programme said today in an e- mailed statement.
The UN Security Council is “united in deep concern about the crisis in Sudan,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said today in a message on Twitter. “Khartoum must withdraw from Abyei now or face increased pressure.”
Joint forces from the northern and southern armies would be deployed north and south of the river along with the African peacekeepers, according to the government’s proposal. Southern Sudan is scheduled to become independent on July 9.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti informed UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon that the UN’s 10,000-member peacekeeping mission will end when the south becomes independent, SUNA reported May 28. Ban has proposed having a 7,000-member peacekeeping force in Southern Sudan after independence.
Sudan’s proposal didn’t specify whether the peacekeepers would be from the African Union, or African countries, and it didn’t suggest a timeline for their deployment.
The details of the proposal “haven’t been worked out yet,” Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior member in Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party and adviser to the information minister, said today by phone from Khartoum.
A referendum in Abyei scheduled for January on whether to join the south or remain a special administrative region in the north was canceled because of disagreements over who was eligible to vote.
Abyei is contested between the region’s Ngok Dinka people, who are settled in the area and consider themselves southerners, and Misseriya nomads who herd their cattle south in the dry season and are supported by the government in Khartoum.
The government’s proposal said it was “necessary to keep the current situation” of the two forces present on the opposite sides of the river “until a final agreement is reached on the referendum.”
The Abyei region produces less than 2,500 barrels of oil a day, according to Sudan’s Oil Ministry.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Heather Langan
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