Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) is expected by 23 January. It is expected to recommend a review of the size of the UNMIS police component. The report is likely to be discussed in early February, but preparations and thinking will already be underway between Council members in January. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan Ashraf Qazi may brief the Council. The UNMIS mandate expires on 30 April.
Also expected by 15 January is an interim report of the Panel of Experts to the Sudan Sanctions Committee.
Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between north and south Sudan, elections at all levels are supposed to be held by 9 July. There is growing concern that this now appears unachievable. Several other important dates are also approaching. The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) is expected to submit its report on implementation of the CPA in both Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in 2009, concluding the popular consultations.
In addition, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to hand down its decision in mid-2009 on whether the Abyei Boundary Commission exceeded its mandate. The ABC was tasked with demarcating a border between northern and southern groups in Abyei. President Omar al-Bashir rejected the report’s conclusions in July 2005.
Results of the national population census conducted between 22 April and 5 May are anticipated in early 2009 as is the technical committee’s report on north-south border demarcation after a three-year delay. In early 2009 the International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir.
In Abyei, violence erupted again on 12 December involving members of the military joint integrated units (JIUs) and joint integrated police units, resulting in at least one death and thousands of civilians fleeing again. Adding to north-south tensions, the Sudanese government deployed six northern battalions to Southern Kordofan after members of the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) apparently entered this transitional area in late November. JEM had previously launched an unprecedented attack on Omdurman in May. Khartoum said the new northern force had no intention to attack the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) also deployed in the area. The South Sudanese government claims that Khartoum’s unilateral decision to deploy troops in Southern Kordofan violates the CPA.
The Chairman of the AEC, Sir Derek Plumbly, briefed the AU Peace and Security Council on 24 November and briefed the UN Security Council in a closed session on 10 December. The AEC was established under the CPA to oversee and report on its implementation. The Chairman informed both the UN and AU bodies that mistrust remained, and much of the CPA remained to be implemented even though peace had been preserved since the CPA was signed in 2005. He listed five critical concerns: Abyei, border demarcation, security sector reform, elections, and the 2011 referendum and its aftermath.
On Abyei, he said redeployment of northern Sudanese Armed Forces and southern SPLA troops remained incomplete. Reconstruction and reconciliation was a priority. The transitional area of Southern Kordofan was awash with arms, problems with power-sharing continued, and aid and government funding was inadequate. He said recent gains, such as the redeployment of SPLA troops and moves to integrate the former SPLM/A police and civil service, needed building upon.
On security, the AEC Chairman said high defence expenditure and the concentration of forces in border areas reflected mistrust between the parties. JIUs lacked equipment, transport, shelter, healthcare and training and were neither joint nor integrated.
Sudan’s nine-member National Elections Commission (NEC), appointed in late November, remains unstaffed and has yet to develop policy on issues such as voter registration. Other outstanding electoral tasks include revising legislation that does not conform to the interim constitution, starting voter education programmes and drawing up of constituency boundaries, which will necessarily rely in part on the still-undemarcated north-south border and the unannounced April census results. While elections seem impossible by 9 July, parties involved say only the NEC has authority to postpone the election.
During a 3 December briefing to the Council, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said President Bashir continued to implement his plan to destroy entire ethnic groups. In late November three human rights activists were detained by Sudanese authorities and interrogated about their relationship with the ICC.
From 24 to 30 November, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes travelled through Sudan to assess the humanitarian and security situation. On 3 December, he told the Council that South Sudan was no longer a humanitarian emergency, but that it still had some of the worst child and maternal health indicators in the world. He earlier had said the capacity of the South Sudanese government must be enhanced so it could assume responsibility for healthcare, education and other services.
On 14 December soldiers from the armed forces of South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) commenced a joint operation against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) headquarters in Garamba forests of eastern DRC. The main camp of LRA leader Joseph Kony was reportedly destroyed. The operation was launched after Kony failed to meet a 30 November deadline to sign the final peace agreement with the Ugandan government.
Sudan Sanctions Committee
On 12 December, the Committee received a briefing from the NGO Human Rights First, on violations of the arms embargo. Human Rights First asked the Council to place travel bans and asset freezes on individuals identified as violating the arms embargo, ban aviation companies transporting arms to Darfur and widen the arms embargo.
On 15 December the chair of the Sudan Sanctions Committee, Italy, told the Council many of the panels’ recommendations had not been given the desired follow-up because of a lack of consensus among Council members on the role of sanctions to end the conflict in Darfur and on the conflict itself.
A key issue is the ongoing sustainability of peace under the CPA in light of the growing tensions and occasional outburst of fighting. A related question is whether the Council can and should become more involved in a conflict prevention role, in particular encouraging implementation of the CPA and perhaps reviewing whether it may be possible to arrest the drift in implementation of the CPA by developing a new role and capabilities for UNMIS in support of the agreement.
A major underlying issue is the mistrust between north and south fanned by reports that Khartoum and the SPLM are building up their armed forces. A concern is that parties may seek a military solution to resolve key issues such as border demarcation. A related question is whether an earlier recommendation to increase the strength of UNMIS by 600 troops and redeploy UNMIS assets will be implemented in a timely manner to assist mitigation of potential conflicts.
The decision of the ICC judges on the requested indictment for Bashir is primarily a Darfur related issue. But there is an underlying concern by some that this could trigger actions by elements in the south to exploit the situation and directly challenge Khartoum.
On north-south issues one option for the Council is to adopt a more proactive approach, including:
calling on troop contributors to provide the additional 600 troops recommended in October following the review of UNMIS military capabilities;
requesting the Secretary-General to provide greater detail on the operations of JIUs and JIPUs and advice on resources available at UNMIS’ disposal to better support them;
requesting more regular (perhaps once a month) informal briefings by the Secretariat on CPA implementation, given the number of outstanding CPA related tasks due in 2009; and
recalling the Council’s request in resolution 1812 for the Secretary-General to provide an assessment and recommendations on measures UNMIS might take to further support elections, and to advance the peace process, particularly in light of the establishment of the NEC and request from the South Sudanese government for support for the elections.
While mindful of the importance of the CPA and the growing risks, Council members have historically taken a lower-key approach on north-south issues. This tends to play out as a “wait and see” position. With no one on the Council willing at this stage to take any initiative, it seems that a low-key approach to north-south issues will continue in January.
It remains to be seen how the incoming US administration will pursue its policy on Sudan. On 31 December five elected members will leave the Council, including South Africa, which had been particularly active on Sudan. It seems unlikely that the new members will significantly affect Council dynamics on the issue, although Uganda as a neighbour of South Sudan, and with a number of interests in common, may place greater weight on more proactive Council support for the CPA.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Council Meeting Records
UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Ashraf Qazi (Pakistan)
UNMIS: Size, Composition and Cost
24 March 2005 to present; mandate expires 30 April 2009
Human Rights First, Arms Sales to Sudan, 2004-2006, October 2008.
Assessment and Evaluation Commission, Mid-Term Evaluation Report, July 2008