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UN mission leaves Kassala, withdrawal of forces

Following withdrawal of SPLA forces, UN mission leaves Kassala in eastern Sudan

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today held a “farewell ceremony” in the State of Kassala, in the eastern part of the country, where the operation finished overseeing the withdrawal of forces under a peace agreement that marked the end of a 21-year conflict separate from the one that more recently engulfed the vast Darfur region.

UNMIS said Kassala is the first sector where the mission has successfully completed its mandated tasks with the withdrawal of all SPLA forces – around 5,600 troops – from Eastern Sudan to the South, as called for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 by the Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army. The phase-out of UNMIS troops is expected to be completed over a two-month period.

Speaking to participants at the farewell ceremony, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Jan Pronk, voiced satisfaction that UNMIS personnel deployed in the State has been viewed by the local communities as exemplary guests who showed utmost respect for the culture of the society they were there to serve.

The envoy also indicated that the although UNMIS will be pulling out of the area, United Nations agencies will continue to carry out their humanitarian and development programmes there.

In a press release on the event, UNMIS said the withdrawal of all SPLA forces from Eastern Sudan to the South “represents a significant step” in the peace process.

“The success of UNMIS monitoring and verification operation in Eastern Sudan lies in the fact that this redeployment that involved large bodies of troops and non-combatants was carried out peacefully without any incidents,” the mission said.

But while welcoming recent security developments, UNMIS said the UN “remains concerned that nutritional and mortality levels could easily worsen if there is not enough assistance and/or adequate access granted for the humanitarian agencies to the people in need throughout the region.”

It stressed that all UN humanitarian partners have expressed their willingness to continue their activities and to work closely with the authorities as well as with the civil society in order to effectively address the needs of the region's people.

Besides carrying out its verification and monitoring tasks, UNMIS engaged in a wide range of activities aimed at helping local people while supporting the wider objective of achieving sustainable peace in the region. In October, 2005, the Nepalese contingent launched an anti-malaria drive in Kassala, and later embarked on another campaign to increase awareness of hygiene and sanitation among the township's population.

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