Sudan and South Sudan
Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is likely to review the force levels of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to ascertain whether conditions in South Sudan could permit a reduction of the mandated level of military personnel from up to 7,000 to 6,000. If the Council does decide to decrease the force level, it will need to adopt a resolution.
The Council will also likely receive a briefing and hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in order to review the mandate, potentially adding a border-monitoring support role to the mission by adopting a resolution.
Given the fluidity of the situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, it is possible that the Council may meet in October to discuss the violence in these two regions of Sudan.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 8 July 2012, while the mandate of UNISFA expires on 27 December 2011.
Key Recent Developments
South Sudan President Salva Kiir announced the appointment of his new 29-member cabinet on 26 August. It is more ethnically and regionally diverse than the caretaker government it replaces, with Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bhar el Ghazal represented in key posts. Women also make up nearly 30 percent of the posts. On 31 August, the National Assembly of South Sudan approved the appointments.
Between June and August, several attempts by the Council to negotiate a statement on the violence in South Kordofan were unsuccessful. It seems that Council members could not reconcile differences over how to describe the reported human rights abuses in the region. There also appear to have been differences regarding the level of responsibility for the violence that should be apportioned to Khartoum on the one hand and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on the other.
Fighting broke out in Blue Nile State in Sudan between the Sudanese for Armed Forces and the SPLM-N on 1 September. The next day, Khartoum declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile, dismissed the governor (Malik Agar, a member of the SPLM-N) and appointed a military governor.
On 4 September, Ambassador Dafa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman forwarded two letters to the president of the Security Council from Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ali Ahmed Karti. In one of the letters, Karti stated that the government of Sudan had created a committee to “assess the legal situation in the state (Blue Nile) and to receive complaints and conduct the necessary investigations regarding the violations committed by the (Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army) forces there.” Meanwhile, the SPLM-N issued a statement accusing Sudan of “naked aggression and attacks on civilians.”
On 8 September, Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations; Philippe Lazzarini, deputy director of the coordination and response division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and Hilde Johnson, the head of UNMISS, briefed the Council on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan in consultations.
Mulet said that the first phase of the withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), constituting the majority of mission personnel, had been completed. He added that deployment of UNISFA was well underway, with more than 1,700 peacekeepers already on the ground. He also noted that Sudan and South Sudan had agreed to withdraw their troops from Abyei between 11 and 30 September.
Lazzarini discussed the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. He said that the fighting in both regions had significantly curtailed humanitarian access. While difficult to verify, he estimated that the fighting in Blue Nile had displaced approximately 50,000 people, with many crossing the border into Ethiopia.
Johnson said that the deployment of UNMISS was progressing, with over 4,600 troops expected by the end of September. Johnson also commended President Kiir on the appointment of a new cabinet that represents ethnic, regional and gender diversity. She described the government’s priorities moving forward, including education, health care, rule of law, infrastructure development, and the transformation of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army via a political process. Regarding the security situation in South Sudan, Johnson expressed concern about the violence in August between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities, caused by cattle-rustling in Jonglei state. She noted that the scope of the violence, which led to the deaths of approximately 600 people and 1,000 wounded on 18 August, was unusual.
On 12 September, Sudan’s parliament adopted a resolution supporting the extension of a state of emergency in Blue Nile state and endorsing the military operation there. During a visit to Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile, on 17 September, first Vice President Ali Osman Taha, reiterated Khartoum’s commitment to maintain control of Blue Nile, reportedly stating that Sudan would “cut off every hand that wants to extract it”.
On 21 September, Human Rights Watch reported that Sudanese security forces incarcerated over 100 suspected SPLM-N party members when fighting broke out in Blue Nile on 2 September, with many being released after they were forced to denounce their political affiliation.
On 18 September, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan held the first meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), which seeks to promote political and security cooperation between the countries, especially with respect to their shared border. (The two parties had agreed to a border-monitoring support mechanism on 30 July.) At the meeting, they agreed to establish ten crossing points within a demilitarised zone along their 2,000-kilometer shared border.
On 22 September, several dozen Sudanese soldiers and SPLM-N rebels died in fighting in the Rashad district of South Kordofan. Both sides suffered heavy casualties in the fighting, which appears to have been initiated by the rebels.
The Satellite Sentinel Project reported on 23 September that satellite images demonstrated that 3,000 Sudanese troops were making their way toward the city of Kurmuk in Blue Nile, supported by tanks, helicopter gun-ships and artillery.
On 27 September, UNHCR reported that since 3 September approximately 25,000 refugees had arrived in Ethiopia, fleeing the violence in Blue Nile. UNHCR anticipated that the number of refugees would increase as fighting continues in the Blue Nile.
At press time, the UNISFA report, which was due out on 27 September, had yet to be released.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Addressing Sudan, she expressed concern at the stand-off between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-N in South Kordofan, and violence that had spread to neighbouring Blue Nile. Pillay mentioned that she had published a report describing a wide range of violations of international criminal law and international humanitarian law in South Kordofan in June. She strongly recommended the establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry into these incidents. She urged the government to pay heed to this recommendation and allow the deployment of human rights observers to monitor the situation on the ground.
On 19 September 2011, Mohamed Chande Othman, the UN expert on the human rights situation in Sudan, drew the HRC’s attention to the enormous challenges faced by South Sudan, including the urgent need to accelerate its transition from a military movement to a responsible and accountable government. Violence and systematic abuses of human rights that continued to occur in an environment of impunity also remained a great concern and needed to be addressed by the new government. Othman concluded that the human rights situation in both Sudan and South Sudan remained precarious and warranted the undivided attention of the HRC.
A key issue for the Council is how it can most effectively monitor and address the continuing violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, while maintaining security in the contested border region of Abyei.
Another key issue is what role the Council can play in generating the necessary trust and goodwill between the parties to resolve the remaining Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) issues—including border demarcation, oil sharing, citizenship and the status of Abyei.
A further important issue is how the Council can support South Sudan in maintaining security and developing effective state institutions. A related issue is how the Council can address the recent escalation of violence resulting from cattle-rustling in South Sudan. The raids in August in Jonglei state showed a high level of coordination and planning. High levels of violence related to cattle-rustling were also reported in Unity state in September.
Another important issue is how the Council can strengthen its overall approach to the region by exploring potential synergies among the three UN missions in Sudan and South Sudan.
One option is to bring together key UN and regional actors—for example, Haile Menkerios, the special envoy of the Secretary-General on Sudan and South Sudan; Hilde Johnson, the special representative of the Secretary-General and head of mission of UNMISS; Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint AU-UN special representative for Darfur; and Thabo Mbeki, chair of the High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan—for a high-level meeting to discuss how the Council can foster a more strategic approach to the challenges facing Sudan and South Sudan. The Council held a similar high-level meeting in June 2010 to discuss the implementation of the CPA and the Darfur peace negotiations, which included the participation of Gambari, Mbeki, Menkerios and Djibril Bassolé, who was then the AU-UN joint chief mediator on Darfur.
With respect to the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Council could:
- hold an Arria-formula meeting that includes the participation of NGOs with quality information about events unfolding on the ground;
- adopt a statement expressing concern about the violence and human rights violations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and calling on the parties to cease the violence; or
- adopt two separate statements, one that focuses on Khartoum’s role in the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and another that focuses on the SPLM-N’s role in the conflict. (This would allow the Council to focus separately on each side’s responsibility for the violence.)
With respect to UNMISS and the situation in South Sudan, the Council could:
- maintain the authorised force level of the mission at 7,000 military personnel;
- reduce the mandated force level to 6,000 military personnel, if the Secretariat indicates that this would be sufficient;
- defer a determination on the number of mandated military personnel until the next review of the force level, expected in January, when there is likely to be further progress in the deployment of UNMISS; and
- adopt a statement that condemns the recent violence in Jonglei and Unity states related to cattle-rustling.
With respect to UNISFA, the Council could:
- keep the mandate of the mission unchanged; or
- adopt a resolution that would include a border-monitoring support role for the mission.
All Council members remain concerned about the ongoing fighting and the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, there is a broad range of opinion over the appropriate approach to the violence and the level of accountability of the parties in the conflict. On one side of the spectrum, some members believe that the Council should take a strong stance against Khartoum, condemning in particular aerial bombardments and human rights violations. On the other side of the spectrum are members who hold the perspective that, as a sovereign government, Khartoum needs to defend its territory, that there is a lack of clarity regarding events on the ground and that, in addition to Khartoum, the SPLM-N shares considerable responsibility for the fighting.
Regarding UNMISS, some members appear particularly interested in ensuring that the mission is as cost-effective as possible. This seems to arise from the fact that there are now three missions in Sudan and South Sudan, mandating over 38,000 military and police personnel.
With respect to UNISFA, there appears to be widespread support within the Council for according a border-monitoring support role to the mission. Some members have noted that coalescence on this issue might provide a springboard for the Council to address other intractable challenges in Sudan where there are currently differences of perspective on the Council.
Some members of the Council have expressed the view that there is a need to approach the complex issues in Sudan and South Sudan in a more holistic and strategic manner that fosters greater complementarities between the three UN peace operations in the countries.
Security Council Resolutions
UNMISS: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission
Hilde Frafjord Johnson (Norway)
UNMISS: Size and Duration
Maximum authorised strength: up to 7,000 military and 900 police
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Sudan and South Sudan
Haile Menkerios (South Africa)
UNISFA: Force Commander and Head of Mission
Lt. Gen. Tadesse Werede Tesfay (Ethiopia)
UNISFA: Size, Composition and Duration
Maximum authorised strength: up to 4,200 military and 50 police