UN "could have had more visibility" to deter attacks in Abyei

armed uniformed men walking past burning businesses and homesteads in Abyei

armed uniformed men walking past burning businesses and homesteads in Abyei

The United Nations says it could and should have done more to deter violence and the destruction of property in the oil-rich Abyei region of Sudan.

More than 70,000 people have fled their homes as violence by armed militia flared up in Abyei, a region which is claimed by both the north and south of the country.

Derrick Mbatha reports.

Reports have been circulating that peacekeepers of the United Nations mission in Sudan (UNMIS) stayed in their barracks for two days while the attacks were going on in Abyei in May.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that most civilians left the area before the peak of the crisis and that UNMIS troops and civilians were themselves in imminent danger as UNMIS compound itself was hit.

It says that the peacekeepers could have and should have had more visibility to deter any violence against civilians and the destruction of property.

South Sudan held a referendum in January to become independent but a similar vote to allow the people of Abyei to decide whether to be part of north or south Sudan has not taken place.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.

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