UN chief appoints Nigerian army commander to lead UNISFA in Abyei
JUBA – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed a Nigerian army commander to head the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), with South Sudan welcoming the move decision.
The international mission was established on June 27, 2011, in response to the urgent situation in the disputed border area less than two weeks before South Sudan’s independence following the eruption of violence between the two sides.
“United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (Tuesday) announced the appointment of Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr of Nigeria as Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA),” it read. in a statement from the UN spokesperson.
Sawyerr succeeds Major General Kefyalew Amde Tessema of Ethiopia.
So far, the mission is only formed of led and composed Ethiopian military forces, as requested by the Sudanese government and in recognition of the role played by the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
However, following the deterioration of bilateral relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa, Khartoum requested the withdrawal of the Ethiopian force from Abyei which remains under Sudanese sovereignty.
On January 19, 2022, the head of the UN peacekeeping department Jean Pierre Lacroix spoke with the president of the Sovereign Council to inform him that the troop replacement process will begin in February and will continue until next March.
Previously, Sawyerr served as Commandant of the Nigerian Army Armor School in Bauchi State, North Eastern Nigeria (2020-2021).
He served as Brigade Commander twice in North East Nigeria and was Commander of the Nigerian Battalion with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (2009-2010).
He also served as Director of Plans at the Nigerian Army Headquarters (2019-2020) and Deputy Director of Doctrine and Combat Development (2017-2018).
South Sudan welcomes appointment
The South Sudanese government has welcomed the appointment of Nigerian Army General Deng Alor as South Sudanese Minister for East African Affairs, saying the country will continue to seek ways to expedite the resolution of the dispute. from Abyei.
“It is the responsibility to complement the efforts of Member States to preserve peace and security. As a government, we welcome the appointment of the new Force Commander and will work with him to ensure peace prevails in the region,” he said.
Kuol praised the work of the peacekeeping force, highlighting the efforts that have been made to curb illicit armed activities in the north of the area.
“There have been activities in the recent past that have caused great concern to residents of Abyei and nearby communities, but the UNISFA leadership has been able to respond and deploy to areas where the incidents have been reported and Calm has been restored,” he said. .