April 30, 2009 / 9:11 PM / 11 years ago

U.N. extends peacekeepers' mandate in southern Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Security Council on Thursday extended for another year the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers in southern Sudan who monitor compliance with a peace deal that ended Sudan’s two-decade-long civil war.

A Nigerian peacekeeping soldier from the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrols in Otash IDP's camp in Nyla southern Darfur March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

All 15 members of the council voted in favor of a resolution renewing the mandate for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) until April 30, 2010.

The council also condemned “all acts and forms of violence” against the people of Sudan, according to a copy of the U.S.-drafted resolution obtained by Reuters ahead of the vote.

The council “deplores the persistent and localized violence and its effect on civilians, especially within Southern Sudan, and the continuing potential for violence,” it said.

Earlier in April at least 177 people were killed in the Jonglei state of semi-autonomous south Sudan.

This was the latest episode in a vicious cycle of cattle raiding and counterattacks in southern Sudan that has plagued the oil-rich region since Sudan’s 2005 north-south peace deal put an end to one of Africa’s longest conflicts but left southern civilians heavily armed.

International analysts and officials in the southern government have worried aloud that, as well as disrupting peace, these clashes maintain a divisive atmosphere ahead of planned national elections in 2010 and a referendum on independence for the south in 2011.

The council urged the north and south to cooperate with UNMIS so that a final agreement can be reached on the borders of the oil-rich Abyei region straddling northern and southern Sudan. North and south Sudan have agreed to an arbitration process to resolve the border dispute.

In the resolution, the council “urges all Sudanese parties to demonstrate their full commitment to the democratic process by preparing expeditiously for the conduct of peaceful, transparent, and credible elections in February 2010.”

An estimated 2 million people were killed and some 4 million people were displaced in the north-south civil war over ideology, race, religion and oil.

EXPULSION OF AID GROUPS

The resolution contained an indirect reference to the continuing conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

It referred to “the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian populations throughout Sudan” — which diplomats said referred to Khartoum’s expulsion of 13 foreign and three domestic aid agencies from Sudan in March.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called on Khartoum to reverse its decision to expel the humanitarian aid groups which Sudan accused of collaborating with the International Criminal Court ahead of its decision to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for suspected crimes against humanity in Darfur.

“The United States believes that there is absolutely no justification for the government of Sudan’s actions,” she told the council. “We urge Sudan to take immediate steps to restore assistance to Sudan’s most vulnerable civilians.”

Rice’s comments were echoed by the ambassadors of Britain, France, Japan and Costa Rica.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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