Agence France-Presse Passersby observe a fire in a market in al-Fasher, capital of the Sudanese state of North Darfur, on September 1, 2023. The fire was triggered by a bombardment by the paramilitary Rapid Support Force.
The “unprecedented” conflict between the Sudanese army and rival paramilitary forces, now in its seventh month, is moving closer to South Sudan and the disputed Abyei region, the UN special envoy warned on Monday. UN Horn of Africa.
Hanna Serwaa Tetteh highlighted recent seizures by the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) of the Belila airport and oil field, about 55 kilometers to the southwest of the capital of West Kordofan State in Sudan.
She told the UN Security Council that the conflict “profoundly affects bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan, with significant humanitarian, security, economic and political consequences which are a matter of deep concern among the South Sudanese political leaders.”
Sudan was plunged into chaos in mid-April when simmering tensions between the army and the RSF exploded into open warfare in the capital, Khartoum, and in other parts of this East African country.
More than 9,000 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location&Event Data project, which tracks the war in Sudan. And the fighting has pushed more than 4.5 million people to flee their homes elsewhere in Sudan and more than 1.2 million others to seek refuge in neighboring countries, according to the UN.
Sudan plunged into turmoil after its top military leader, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, led a coup in October 2021 that upended a short-term democratic transition after three decades of autocratic rule by Omar al -Bashir. Since mid-April, its troops have been fighting the RSF, commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The two parties have been participating in talks since the end of October aimed at ending the conflict in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, negotiated by Saudi Arabia and the United States. But the fighting continued.
The Security Council meeting focused on the UN peacekeeping force in the oil-rich Abyei region, whose status remains unresolved since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011. The majority of Ngok Dinka in the region favor South Sudan, while the Misseriya nomads who come to Abyei to find grazing for their livestock favor Sudan.
With the captures of Belila by RSF, Tetteh said, the military confrontation between the two Sudanese camps “is moving closer to the border with Abyei and South Sudan.”
“These military developments are likely to have adverse consequences on the social fabric of Abyei and the already fragile coexistence between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka,” she said.
The chief of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the Council that the outbreak of the Sudanese conflict “interrupted the encouraging signs of dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan seen earlier in 2023.” He said the country had suspended “the political process regarding the final status of Abyei and border issues.”
Ms. Tetteh echoed Mr. Lacroix, saying that “there is no “There is no desire on the part of key Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders to elevate Abyei's status.”
She said representatives of Abyei communities are very aware of the “adverse consequences” of the conflict on the resumption of talks on the region and expressed the need to keep the Abyei dispute on the agenda of the UN and the African Union.