November 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2011
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action
In November, the Council expects to receive a briefing and hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The briefing may be provided by Hervé Ladsous, Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, or Hilde Johnson, Head of UNMISS, or possibly both. The Council may review the force level of the mission. If it decides to adjust the force level, a resolution would be needed. 

It is also possible that the Council may adjust the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) in November, also through a resolution, to include a border monitoring support role. However, the timing of this remains unclear and may be deferred to a later date. (While the Council expects to receive the report of the Secretary-General on UNISFA in late November, it may not consider it until December.)

The ongoing violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states will also likely be on the minds of Council members, and the Council may decide to discuss both situations. 

The mandates of UNISFA and UNMISS expire on 27 December 2011 and 8 July 2012, respectively.

Key Recent Developments
On 5 October, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned of an impending food crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as a result of irregular rainfall and ongoing violence.  The FAO indicated that more than 235,000 people in these states are in need of assistance considering current assessments of anticipated food availability.  

On 6 October, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on the situation in Abyei. He stated that 900 additional troops would be deployed as part of UNISFA before the end of October, adding to the nearly 1,800 troops already deployed. He noted that since 23 August the mission had conducted numerous patrols and air reconnaissance missions. He recommended that the Council adjust the mandate to provide a border-monitoring support mechanism and added that four utility helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft would also be required to help UNISFA conduct this potential expansion of the mandate. However, Ladsous cautioned that neither the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) nor the South Sudanese army had withdrawn from Abyei. He added that both parties needed to withdraw troops from Abyei and establish a joint administration in order for UNISFA to successfully protect civilians. 

Representatives from Sudan and South Sudan briefed the Council after Ladsous.  Sudan’s permanent representative, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, indicated that the SAF would withdraw from Abyei only when UNISFA was fully deployed, in order to avoid a “security vacuum” in the region. Then the acting permanent representative of South Sudan, David Buom Choat, said that his country’s forces had withdrawn from Abyei, contradicting Ladsous and the Secretary-General’s recent report on UNISFA. 

In consultations following the briefing, Ladsous reportedly said that South Sudanese troops had been spotted in Agok (a town in Abyei) as recently as two days earlier. Concern also seems to have been expressed during the consultations about the continuing violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. 

On 8 October, South Sudan President Salva Kiir met with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.  During a press conference, the two leaders pledged that Sudan and South Sudan would resolve the issues separating them—for example, oil sharing, border demarcation and the status of Abyei—through negotiations, not war.  Al-Bashir said the parties have established joint committees to resolve outstanding security, economic and political issues within a defined time period, although a precise deadline was not indicated. 

The Council again held consultations on UNISFA on 11 October. During the consultations, it appears that Ladsous reiterated that both Sudanese and South Sudanese troops had not withdrawn from Abyei. Ladsous also discussed the status of UNISFA’s deployment, noting that progress had been made but cautioning that the rainy season had interfered with efforts to expedite the deployment.  He also noted that UNISFA, which consists solely of Ethiopian troops, was in the process of seconding staff officers from various nations to serve in the mission.  (At press time, it appeared that Council members were close to agreeing on a press statement requesting the redeployment of Sudanese and South Sudanese forces from Abyei and calling on both parties to complete the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration.)    

On 13 October, al-Bashir announced that Sudan would adopt an Islamic constitution. In response, Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, said that Sudan should allow for religious diversity.

On 20 October, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) renewed the mandate of the High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan for an additional year. The PSC also agreed to meet in November to discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. Beforehand, the panel is expected to submit a report to the PSC, which will likely serve as the basis of discussion.

Under resolution 1996, which established UNMISS on 9 July, the Council expressed its intention to review the force level after three months (October) and after six months (January) to determine whether or not conditions in South Sudan would allow for a reduction of mandated military personnel from up to 7,000 to 6,000. However, the Council was not briefed on this issue in October.   

Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 29 September debate on technical assistance for Sudan in the field of human rights, the Human Rights Council (HRC) noted the humanitarian situation in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile and called upon all parties to make every effort immediately to end the violence there. The HRC urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to provide Sudan with the necessary technical support and training. It also renewed for one year the mandate of the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and requested the expert to submit a report to the HRC for consideration at its September 2012 session.

 On technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights, the HRC called upon the government to strengthen its cooperation with UNMISS. It also invited the OHCHR to identify and assess specific areas of assistance towards the strengthening of capacity-building for the promotion of respect for human rights.

Key Issues
A key issue is how the Council can most effectively manage the many interconnected political and security challenges facing Sudan and South Sudan. A related issue is the impact that the apparent ongoing ill-will and lack of trust between the parties have on the Council’s efforts to help them manage these challenges.  

Another key issue is whether the difficult security environment in Abyei will hinder both the annual migration southward of the nomadic Misseriya tribe, expected to begin by early November, and the ability of internally displaced persons from the Ngok-Dinka tribe to return to Abyei.  (Tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka, aligned with Sudan and South Sudan respectively, have often led to violence, played out in the larger context of north-south fighting during the Second Sudanese Civil war, as well as more recently.)      

An important issue for the Council is how it can best address the rapidly deteriorating political, security, and humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. A related issue for the Council is the difficulty of obtaining timely, precise information about the situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Options with respect to UNISFA include:

  • receiving a briefing from the UNISFA force commander on the situation in Abyei, the challenges facing the mission and how the Council can assist in meeting those challenges;
  • adjusting the mandate of UNISFA to incorporate a border-monitoring support role;
  • maintaining the current mandate for the time being; or
  • issuing a statement calling on, and setting a firm deadline for, the parties to adhere to their commitment to withdraw troops from Abyei.

Options with respect to UNMISS include:

  • maintaining the current authorised force level of up to 7,000 military personnel for now and deferring a final determination on the size of the force until January; or
  • decreasing the force to 6,000 military personnel, if the Secretariat indicates this would be sufficient.  

Options with respect to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile include:

  • requesting a briefing from OCHA on the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; or
  • holding an Arria-formula meeting with NGOs and other actors with relevant information about the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.    

Council Dynamics
Many Council members have pointed to the need for the Council to develop a more holistic, strategic approach to the intractable challenges facing Sudan and South Sudan. Some members also appear to believe that a more effective balance of incentives and disincentives could be established to induce both Sudan and South Sudan to make progress in resolving the outstanding issues from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. There seems to be general agreement in the Council that adjusting UNISFA’s mandate to include a border monitoring support mechanism would be a positive step. However, concerns remain about the challenging security situation in Abyei.  

As the three missions in Sudan and South Sudan currently deploy nearly one-third of all UN uniformed personnel on the ground (as of 30 September), and the situations in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Jonglei states are attracting the Council’s attention, the P5 have called on the Military Staff Committee to assist in a possible reconfiguration of forces and resources.

The US is the lead country on South Sudan, as well as on issues pertaining to Sudan-South Sudan relations and the situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions


  • S/2011/511 (10 August 2011) and S/2011/510 (5 August 2011) were between the President of the Council and the Secretary-General on the UNISFA reconnaissance mission regarding border arrangements in Abyei. 

Other Relevant Facts

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
Deployment as of 30 September: 5,677 total uniformed personnel
Duration: 9 July to present; mandate expires 9 July 2012

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
Deployment as of 30 September: 1,842 total uniformed personnel
Troop contributor: Ethiopia
Duration: 27 June to present; mandate expires 27 December

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