Sudan: UN peacekeepers to police parts of south-north border

On Wednesday, the Security Council diplomats said that the United Nations peacekeepers could create limited buffer zones in hot spots along the border of south and north Sudan before a referendum on independence is held in the south of the country.

Their comments came as a result of a request by Salva Kiir the South Sudan’s President during a US Security Council trip to Sudan last week for peacekeepers to be deployed along north-south border.

One council diplomat, who wanted to be anonymous, told reporters: “Nobody thinks it’s realistic to put UNMIS (UN peacekeepers), even if we had masses more troops, along the north-south border in a country that large,”.

“But I think one thing we can and should consider … is looking at augmenting UNMIS in certain hotspots along the border where a buffer presence could be established.”

UNMIS is a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force that supervises abidance with a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of north-south civil war in Sudan.

That agreement demanded a vote on southern independence and a separate vote on whether Abyei, a disputed oil-rich zone, should be part of the south or north.

The two referendums are planned for January 9, 2011, but preparations are badly behind schedule.

The preponderantly Christian and animist southerners, acerbated by the conflict are expected to vote for secession.

Khartoum, the capital of the largely Muslim north, wants to keep Africa’s largest country united.

Soldiery from both sides have clashed since the 2005 agreement, most recently in the disputed Abyei oil region. Each side has accuses the other of building up troops near their shared border as the southern referendum nears.