Hillary Clinton has added her voice to calls for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to withdraw his troops from Abyei and lent support to a plan for Ethiopia to lead a special peacekeeping mission to the disputed region.
“The United States strongly believes a robust peacekeeping presence should be a central part of the security arrangements in Abyei,” Clinton said. “We would welcome both parties [north and south Sudan] agreeing to ask Ethiopia, which has volunteered to send peacekeepers, to do so as part of the UN mission,” she added.
Bashir has ignored all previous calls – from the United Nations Security Council and others – to pull his troops out of Abyei after they invaded the town last month triggering a humanitarian crisis as 100,000 fled the area.
Clinton was speaking in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam before flying to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where talks are underway between Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir. An unconfirmed report from there suggested that Bashir may, at last, agree to the Clinton-backed plan but there has been no official confirmation.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting – including aerial bombardments, artillery shelling and gunfire – is underway in South Kordofan another border area neighbouring Abyei.
South Kordofan is in the north but is also home to thousands of militia who are aligned to the south. The UN reckons that the fighting there has forced at least 53,000 people from their homes.
All of this is worrying news coming less than a month before Sudan is supposed to split in two, with the south winning the independence that it fought for during a 22-year civil war.