Skip to main content

Sudan pulls troops from disputed Abyei region, United Nations says

By By Jared Ferrie, for CNN
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
File photo of South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer, left, who is skeptical that troops have pulled out.
File photo of South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer, left, who is skeptical that troops have pulled out.
  • The U.N. has called for Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw forces from Abyei
  • A South Sudan army spokesman questions whether Sudan has truly pulled its forces out
  • Many people remain displaced in the disputed border region
  • Sudan and South Sudan have returned to peace talks

Juba, South Sudan (CNN) -- Sudan has withdrawn its soldiers from Abyei, a disputed border region also claimed by South Sudan, but has left police officers, the United Nations peacekeeping mission said Wednesday.

"The mission has confirmed the full withdrawal of the SAF from Abyei area yesterday," said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York, referring to the Sudan Armed Forces. "Armed police forces are still in the area."

South Sudan's army spokesman, Philip Aguer, said he is "skeptical" that Sudan has truly pulled troops out.

He said he had received reports that the Sudan Armed Forces left two platoons of soldiers dressed in police uniforms in Abyei town, and that two battalions remain about 40 miles away in Diffra, which is the only oil field inside the disputed territory.

Struggling for survival in South Sudan
ETV reporter caught in South Sudan fight
Pressure increases on Sudans

"We have our reservations about Sudan's claims that it withdrew from Abyei," he said, adding that his government is investigating reports that Sudanese soldiers remain in the area.

The conflicting claims come on the second day of renewed peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan, which are being hosted by the African Union in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Talks have been ongoing since the South declared independence on July 9 of last year, but Sudan pulled out of negotiations last month as border clashes brought the countries to the brink of war.

A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted this month threatened sanctions if the countries refused to cease hostilities and return to talks.

South Sudan complied with the Security Council's demand that it withdraw forces from the contested, oil-rich area of Heglig, as well as police it had stationed in Abyei. The resolution also required Sudan to withdraw its forces from Abyei.

The United Nations and the African Union have made repeated requests that Sudan withdraw troops after it invaded Abyei a year ago. More than 100,000 people remain displaced, according to the World Food Program, which is supporting the displaced community in the South Sudanese town of Agok.

Under a 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan's two-decade civil war, Abyei residents were to take part in a referendum on whether to join the South or remain a special administrative region within Sudan. The vote was to take place in January 2011, at the same time as the referendum that led to South Sudan's secession. But disputes over who was eligible to vote prevented the referendum from going forward in Abyei.

In a 2009 ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague placed Abyei's boundaries around the traditional homeland of the Ngok Dinka tribe. Those borders excluded most of the oil fields in the area as well as the members of the Misseriya tribe, who often receive support from Khartoum, Sudan's capital. The nomads spend part of the year grazing their cattle in Abyei and said they should also be able to vote.

The U.N. Security Council and the African Union have given Sudan and South Sudan three months to resolve post-secession issues, including the fate of Abyei. Other points of contention are citizenship for people from both countries who now find themselves living in either country, border demarcation and oil revenue sharing.

With independence, South Sudan acquired three-quarters of the formerly united country's oil reserves. But the new nation depends on pipelines and processing facilities that remain in Sudan.

Negotiators have failed to agree on how much the landlocked South should pay to use those facilities. South Sudan halted oil production in late January after accusing Sudan of stealing $815 million worth of its crude. Sudan said it had confiscated the oil to make up for unpaid fees.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.