Expected Council Action
The Council needs to take decisions in June on the future UN presence in South Sudan after its independence on 9 July. It seems that the Secretary-General’s 17 May recommendations are seen as problematic by a number of Council members.
The issue is complicated by the need to address in parallel the situation in Abyei and other unresolved CPA implementation and post-CPA arrangements relating to the relationship between North and South Sudan as two sovereign states.
SCR will publish an Update Report in early June with further background and analysis following the briefing and consultations expected on 31 May.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General has released recommendations on a new UN mission in South Sudan, referred to in his report as UNMISS. The first section of the report describes the outstanding issues in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), including the status of Abyei, disputed border areas, the redeployment and reintegration of northern and southern forces and the possible integration of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The first section also outlines the status of negotiations on post-CPA matters such as security arrangements, citizenship, oil-sector management and external debt.
The second section of the report addresses the needs for a new UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, headquartered in Juba. The Secretary-General recommends the mission have the following main tasks under Chapter VI of the UN Charter:
- good offices and political support for peace consolidation;
- support to security sector reform and rule of law;
- conflict mitigation and physical protection of civilians;
and, under Chapter VII:
- physical protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical danger, including through the use of force as a last resort when government security services are unable to provide such security.
The report recommends:
- an integrated mission (i.e. UN funds and programmes such as the UN Development Programme and the UN Children’s Fund would be under the authority of a special representative of the Secretary-General);
- elements of the mission cover: protection of civilians, political, military, police, civil affairs, human rights, justice, corrections, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, mine action, child protection, gender, public information, HIV/AIDS support, recovery and refugee return and reintegration, mission support and safety and security; and
- a mandated strength of 7,000 troops with utility helicopters and an engineering capacity and 900 individual police.
After protracted debate in the Secretariat, the report opts for a three-month rollover of the current UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) from 9 July to 9 October to allow UNMIS to commence downsizing in Khartoum, while focusing on the dual role of good offices to assist the two sovereign states “to maintain calm while seeking resolutions to the residual CPA and post-referendum issues” and beginning the transformation into UNMISS. The report seems to ignore the option of two simultaneous missions but indicates the intention to deploy to South Sudan on 9 July an “advance team composed of a senior management group” to set up the core capabilities of the new mission under UNMIS’ current mandate. There have been numerous rumours that the Secretariat has no confidence that a three-month rollover will be sufficient and that the Secretary-General will have to request a further three-month extension of UNMIS.
Violence escalated in Abyei throughout May, culminating in an attack by southern forces on a northern (SAF) convoy escorted by UNMIS on 19 May. Khartoum retaliated and seized Abyei on 21 May. On 24 May Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir indicated it has no intention of withdrawing and ordered SAF to respond to SPLA provocations “anywhere”.
Tensions in Abyei began rising before the referendum in January when it became clear that Khartoum did not intend to honour the CPA obligations to hold a separate referendum there (due to differences between the CPA parties over who was eligible to vote). (Khartoum had previously rejected the outcome of the CPA mandated arbitration on Abyei’s boundaries which found largely against the North.) The number of southern Sudanese police deployed to Abyei was increased to over 5,000, and the SAF and SPLA both built up their presence in the area. The Kadugli agreement signed in January was an attempt to reduce tensions. The south committed to withdraw its additional police and security would be taken over by Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) composed of troops from both the SAF and the SPLA.
On 1 May fighting flared between southern police and SAF from a JIU, resulting in at least 14 deaths. The UN and international partners were able to diffuse the situation and avoid an immediate escalation. But clashes intensified following a statement from Bashir that Abyei would remain part of the north and Sudan would wage war if the south attempted to annex Abyei (this followed the release of the draft interim constitution of South Sudan, which included Abyei in its territory). On 6 May the Secretary-General called upon both parties to stop unilaterally claiming ownership of the Abyei area.
On 8 May the parties agreed on a timetable to implement the Kadugli agreement, with all “unauthorised” forces to be withdrawn from Abyei by 17 May and with each side providing an equal number of military personnel for the JIUs. The UN was to monitor the withdrawal and deployment process.
On 10 May, four UNMIS peacekeepers were shot and injured by unknown armed elements in Abyei.
The Council issued a press statement on 11 May expressing its deep concern regarding the situation in Abyei and welcoming the commitments from the leaders of both sides that neither shall include an unconditional claim on Abyei in its draft constitution. The statement also condemned the introduction, by both parties, of armed forces into Abyei in violation of the CPA, as well as the 10 May shooting of the peacekeepers.
On 19 May, UNMIS personnel were escorting 200 SAF members into the Abyei area to take up their deployment under the Kadugli agreement when they came under attack by southern forces. According to Khartoum, the attack resulted in the death of at least 22 SAF personnel. The UN called this a criminal attack against the UN and a breach of the CPA. The president of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, met Security Council members in Juba on 23 May. He apparently apologised and blamed the 19 May attack on the irresponsible actions of an individual.
On 21 May, SAF entered the area with forces from the North and captured Abyei town. The SAF used heavy artillery and tanks and aircraft bombed at least four villages in the area. Several shells hit the UNMIS base in Abyei, injuring two peacekeepers. Humanitarian agencies reported that the population of Abyei fled south of the Bahr el-Arab or Kiir river. Khartoum removed the head of the Abyei administration and dissolved the region’s administrative council. On 22 May, Khartoum issued a statement that it was “cleansing [Abyei] of illegal forces.” From 23 May Khartoum-aligned armed Misseriya tribesmen burned and looted Abyei town, some say in retribution for southern forces blocking their annual migration. UNMIS condemned this action, calling upon the SAF to fulfil their responsibility for maintaining law and order in the areas they control. On 25 May Misseriya tribesmen fired at UNMIS helicopters in Abyei. At press time, the head of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, Thabo Mbeki, was mediating between the parties.
A Security Council delegation visited Sudan from 21 to 24 May. The delegation met members of the Misseriya community in Khartoum and members of the Ngok Dinka community in Wau to discuss possible solutions to the status of Abyei. In light of the attack on the UNMIS convoy the Council members cancelled their planned trip to Abyei. Following the events of 21 May, Council members issued a press statement condemning the southern forces’ attack on the UNMIS convoy on 19 May, calling it a breach of agreements and a criminal act and condemned the “escalatory military operations” being undertaken by SAF in and around Abyei town, including the shelling of the UNMIS compound in Abyei. The Council delegation was scheduled to meet Sudanese Vice President Osman Ali Taha and Foreign Minister Ali Karti in Khartoum. Both cancelled their meeting with the Council members.
A key issue for the Council is whether to begin negotiations on the future UN role and presence in the region on the basis of the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a three-month rollover of UNMIS (in effect deferring the fundamental issues) or start negotiations on a fresh basis which addresses both the long-term needs of South Sudan internally and the medium-term needs with respect to maintaining international peace and security between the two sovereign states in light of residual CPA-related issues.
A related issue is whether a rollover will be attractive to either Khartoum or Juba. For different reasons both parties seem attracted to a fresh approach.
A further issue is to what extent the aggressive attacks on Abyei by the SAF and Khartoum’s snub of the Council delegation will affect the Council’s approach to upcoming negotiations.
- decide on a rollover of three months (as recommended by the Secretary-General) notwithstanding the reluctance of Khartoum and Juba;
- decide to terminate UNMIS from 9 July and
- re-hat UNMIS personnel in South Sudan for a defined period (say October) tasked with implementing the relevant nation-building parts of the UNMIS mandate in South Sudan pending approval of a new mission with a new mandate; and
- tasking the headquarters in Khartoum with responsibility for wind-up of mission resources in northern Sudan pending the possible establishment of a good offices capability; or
- reject a rollover and start negotiating the new mission’s mandate immediately.
The Council could also request a briefing from Mbeki on the progress of negotiations.
Council members received the Secretary-General’s report on 17 May, only two days before the delegation departed for Africa. Few Council members had a chance to reflect in detail upon the recommendations prior to the visit. Many Council members will be simultaneously analysing the recommendations in their capitals whilst their delegates (including many ambassadors) visit Sudan and provide additional assessments.
The events in Abyei and Khartoum’s snub of the Council delegation may affect the dynamics and the approach of some Council members toward the CPA parties.