Sudan: UN authorises peacekeepers for Abyei

A truck piled with looted items in the disputed Sudanese town of Abyei, 28 May 2011
Image caption More than 70,000 people have fled the fighting in Abyei

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to send a 4,200-strong Ethiopian peacekeeping force to the disputed Sudanese territory of Abyei.

The force will monitor the withdrawal of Sudanese troops from Abyei, as well as human rights in the region.

Northern forces occupied Abyei in May, heightening tensions ahead of South Sudan's independence on 9 July.

Aid workers also report continued bombing in South Kordofan, which borders both Abyei and South Sudan.

The clashes have raised fears of a renewal of Sudan's 21-year, north-south conflict.

More than 170,000 people have fled the fighting in the two regions.

'Unauthorised elements'

The resolution establishes a new UN peacekeeping force, called the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei, or UNISFA.

It comes a week after northern and southern leaders signed a deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to demilitarise Abyei and let Ethiopian troops monitor the peace.

Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, said northern forces would withdraw as soon as the Ethiopian troops had been deployed.

French UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, called the force's mandate "robust" .

The resolution also orders UNISFA to protect civilians and to "protect the Abyei area from incursions by unauthorised elements".

Humanitarian sources have told the BBC that five bombs were dropped from an Antonov aircraft on the village of Kurchi in South Kordofan.

Sixteen people were killed - including an eight-month-old baby and a three-year-old, they say.

The BBC has seen disturbing photos of the dead - in some cases their bodies torn apart by the bombs.

Northern forces have been accused of bombing parts of South Kordofan inhabited by ethnic Nubans, who largely supported the south during the civil war.

The fighting broke out after pro-southern groups were ordered to disarm after Ahmed Haroun was declared the winner of recent governorship elections.

Mr Haroun is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

Over the weekend, Mr Haroun said the situation was now safe and people have started to return to their homes.

However, human rights group Amnesty International accused the authorities of forcing the displaced to go home despite continuing violence.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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