April 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2011
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South Sudan

 Expected Council Action
The Council will consider the Secretary-General’s report on UNMIS which is due in mid-April and will also receive a briefing from the Secretariat.

The current mandate for UNMIS expires 30 April and the Council is expected to renew it at current force levels until 9 July and include language in the resolution indicating its intention to authorise a successor UN mission in South Sudan following the country’s independence. A special report of the Secretary-General with recommendations on the mandate and size of a new mission in South Sudan is expected in early May.

Key Recent Developments
The parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) have yet to reach agreement on the status of Abyei. On 27 and 28 February, more than 80 people were killed in fighting, north of Abyei town, between the Misseriya nomadic tribe and Southern Sudanese police and members of the Ngok Dinka community. Fighting continued on 2 March, with Abyei administration officials estimating a further 68 deaths. Each side accuses the other of instigating the attacks. On 3 March, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) started reinforcing its presence in Abyei. The head of UNMIS, Haile Menkerios, said the clashes were a clear violation of the Kadugli agreements of 13 and 17 January. The medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said the violence had resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands.

The Council held consultations on the situation in Abyei on 3 March and received a briefing from Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Atul Khare. On 4 March, Menkerios hosted a meeting in Abyei town in which CPA parties agreed to form a committee to implement the Kadugli agreements. On 14 March, UNMIS verified that both sides had reinforced their positions within the Abyei area, including confirming the presence of Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops not affiliated with the Joint Integrated Units responsible for security in Abyei under the Kadugli agreement. UNMIS said its access to the affected areas was being blocked by elements from both sides.

On 16 March the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect warned that the deployment of the SAF and the SPLA to the area could easily trigger further ethnic-based violence and risk a return to full-scale hostilities. On 19 March Sudanese authorities deployed an additional 1,500 policemen to the northern part of Abyei, which the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) decried as an “open invasion”.

On 13 March the SPLM announced it was withdrawing from talks with the National Congress Party (NCP) on the remaining implementation of the CPA, claiming to have evidence that northern military intelligence was arming southern militia in an effort to overthrow the Government of Southern Sudan. On 14 March the SPLM wrote to the Security Council requesting the Council to convene a meeting to investigate the accusations. This followed a series of deadly armed confrontations between the SPLA and various armed elements in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states in February and March. The Presidency—Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir, vice president Ali Osman Taha and southern Sudan president Salva Kiir—met on 17 March and agreed to resume talks.

The Council held a private meeting on 21 March, in which Khare again briefed the Council on the situation in Abyei and representatives of the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan each put forward their perspective on the accusations levelled by the SPLM against the NCP regarding support to armed militia. Sudanese representatives said the southern government needed to stop blaming others for its internal problems. There was no specific outcome from the meeting, but it is understood that Council members were pleased to note that the parties had agreed to resume talks and that UNMIS was chairing a joint investigation into the violence.

On 27 February at least 92 people were killed in renewed armed confrontation between the SPLA and armed elements loyal to former SPLA General George Athor in Fangak, Jonglei state. This followed violence earlier in February that had killed over 200 people, mostly civilians. On 7 March the SPLA launched an attack on Athor’s forces in Jonglei. The SPLA claimed to have seized 500 AK-47s and other weapons. Athor accused the SPLA of subsequently burning down six villages considered loyal to Athor, killing 168 civilians. On 18 March there were reports of further heavy fighting in Duk County, Jonglei state between the SPLA and Athor’s forces.

On 6 March there were clashes in Upper Nile state between the SPLA and an armed militia led by a commander called “Olonyi”—whom Athor claims is aligned with his rebellion—with estimates of over 60 deaths. On 12 March fighting resumed between the SPLA and Olonyi’s forces around the airport and SPLA barracks in Malakal, Upper Nile state, resulting in at least 49 deaths. The SPLM accused Olonyi’s militia of being ethnically linked to a breakaway faction of the SPLM, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), led by former Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol. Akol was one of a number of generals that split from the SPLA in 1991, but rejoined prior to the signing of the CPA in 2005. The SPLM produced documents that alleged links between Akol and the northern military intelligence, which the Government of Sudan claimed were forgeries. The secretary-general of the SPLM-DC denied the party was affiliated with any armed militia and accused the SPLM of using such accusations to stifle other political parties in South Sudan and create a one-party state.

On 17 March there was fighting between the SPLA and a militia composed of southern elements of the SAF that had returned to Mayom County, Unity state from northern Sudan—whom had failed in previous negotiations to integrate into the SPLA—resulting in over 30 deaths and 28 wounded. It is unclear if this group has aligned with Athor.

At press time UNMIS was investigating reports of aerial bombings by the SAF on 21 and 22 March in the southern Sudanese state of Northern Bahr El-Ghazal.

The UN Secretariat undertook a technical assessment mission to Sudan in March to consider the mandate and size of a successor mission to UNMIS. The Secretary-General is expected to report his recommendations to the Council in early May.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 14 March, following his latest visit to Southern Sudan and to Abyei, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Mohamed Chande Othman, issued a statement noting that tension in the region had been high due to the delayed referendum for Abyei and restrictions on the movement of southerners. He expressed concern about the increasing loss of lives and displacements of civilians caused by fighting between the SPLA and militia groups, inter-communal violence and criminality. He added that the “lack of accountability and impunity associated with these incidents will continue to adversely impact on the peace, stability and security of the region.” The UN expert urged all parties involved in violence in Southern Sudan to refrain from actions that violated the rights of citizens and hindered flows of humanitarian assistance. Also on 14 March, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern with the continued tension and violence in the Abyei area. He urged north and south Sudan leaders to restrain local communities in Abyei and to implement the provisions contained in the UN-mediated accord signed on 4 March to defuse tension in the area. The Secretary-General appealed to both parties to allow UNMIS unhindered access to areas of conflict and urged the NCP and SPLM to defuse tensions and prevent further escalation as a matter of priority.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is the looming question of the financial requirements for the successor mission to UNMIS in April. A short two-month rollover complicates formal planning and also discussions with possible troop-contributors.

An ongoing issue for the Council remains how to maintain pressure on the CPA parties to ensure agreement is reached on outstanding issues in the implementation of the CPA including the status of Abyei.

Underlying Issues
The violence in southern Sudan highlights the historic divisions in the region that remain to be overcome within the new institutions of southern Sudan, as well as the broader need to disarm and reintegrate former combatants.

The SPLM accusations underline the low level of trust and goodwill between the CPA parties and do not augur well for the timely resolution of issues in the negotiations.

When renewing the UNMIS mandate, the Council could:

  • authorise a simple “technical rollover”—maintaining UNMIS at its current mandate and force level—until 9 July, the end of the interim period outlined by the CPA;
  • authorise a technical rollover and indicate the Council’s intention to authorise a future mission in South Sudan, upon its independence, with language allowing the UN Secretariat to seek authority to commit funds toward a new mission from the General Assembly; or
  • adopt a resolution which also includes language regarding the imperative of the parties reaching agreement on outstanding matters, including Abyei, and the responsibility of all parties to protect civilians from violence in Abyei and southern Sudan.

With respect to the situation in Abyei, the Council could also request a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect.

Council Dynamics
Many Council members are concerned about the level of violence in Abyei and between the SPLA and armed militia in southern Sudan. Most on the Council recognise the importance of a political agreement on Abyei to pave the way for reconciliation between the two communities, as well as agreement on key CPA issues including citizenship and wealth-sharing that members perceive are at the core of resolving the issues in Abyei.

Council members seem wary of taking sides with regard to the accusations from the south against the north, given the difficulty of independently verifying the situation.

Most Council members seem to be focused at this stage on gathering information as they consider the most suitable mandate and size of a successor mission to UNMIS. Some, including the UK, US and France, have recently sent their Council experts on short visits to Sudan. Members seem to be in agreement that the special report of the Secretary-General on the successor mission will be a key planning document.

Council members seem to accept that they need to address initial funding of the new mission in South Sudan prior to the finalisation and authorisation of its mandate. Council experts appear to be seeking advice from their colleagues on the General Assembly’s budget committee regarding the technical details of what is required by the Council to enable the General Assembly to authorise an initial level of funding to the successor mission.

The US is the lead country in the Council on implementation of the CPA.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolution

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Selected Security Council Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6478 (9 February 2011) were briefings to the Council on the occasion of the formal announcement of the results of the Southern Sudan referendum.


  • SC/10192 (3 March 2011) was the press statement issued by the Council in response to violence in Abyei and Jonglei State.
  • S/PRST/2011/3 (9 February 2011) was the statement issued by the Council on the occasion of the announcement of the formal results of the Southern Sudan referendum.

Other Relevant Facts

UNMIS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Haile Menkerios (South Africa)

UNMIS: Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Moses Bisong Obi (Nigeria)

UNMIS: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration

  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 10,000 military and 715 police personnel
  • Main troop contributors: India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and Kenya
  • Military strength as of 31 January 2011: 9,304 military personnel
  • Police Strength as of 31 January 2011: 702 police personnel
  • Annual Budget: $1 billion
  • Duration: 24 March 2005 to present; mandate expires 30 April 2011. 

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