528 Tigrayan Peacekeepers in Abyei Refuse to Return to Ethiopia

528 Tigrayan Peacekeepers in Abyei Refuse to Return to Ethiopia (News Central TV)

After refusing to return home, 528 Ethiopian troops serving as the UN peacekeepers force in Abyei have claimed political asylum in Sudan.

Major Gebre Kidane, a Tigrayan ex-peacekeeper, told newsmen that 528 Ethiopian soldiers from the Tigray region refused to return to Ethiopia, citing fears for their safety.

“A number of peacekeepers have chosen not to return and are seeking international protection. They are being protected by the UN in a secure location.

“The responsibility to grant asylum lies with the Sudanese authorities who are being assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in receiving these individuals,” Kidane told reporters.

Starting in February 2022, the 4200 Ethiopian troops will be replaced by peacekeepers from other African countries and Bangladesh, at Sudan’s request.

Kidane said they applied for asylum in early March because they were afraid for their lives. He claimed that Tigrayans who returned to Ethiopia as peacekeepers were jailed and killed.

Following the emergence of the civil war in the Tigray area in November 2020, Ethiopian authorities expel Tigrayan officials, according to rights groups.

In February 2021, a group of 15 Tigray peacekeepers applied for political asylum. In April 2021, they were joined by another 100 people.

After border conflicts began between the two nations by the end of 2020, Sudan sought to replace the Ethiopian military in Abyei. Abyei is a border town currently in the Abyei Area that is disputed by South Sudan and the Sudan. The U.N. estimated the town’s population at around 20,000 previous to May 2011 events.

The oil-producing and fertile Abyei Area, with Abyei town as its center, is a disputed territorial point of contention in the July 2011 secession of South Sudan process. Abyei town was almost completely destroyed in May 2008 when tensions escalated between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) after the Government of South Sudan appointed an administrator for the region, a move the Messiria objected to.

The northern Sudan military succeeded on May 21, 2011 with a forceful takeover of Abyei Area and town.  A week after the takeover satellite images show that the Sudanese army burned and razed about one-third of all civilian buildings in the town during the violence.Tens of thousands of Abyei region civilians, including up to 35,000 children, have been displaced by the northern takeover.

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