December 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 December 2011
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action 
The Council expects to receive a briefing and hold consultations in December on the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), which was due on 27 November but had not been officially released at press time. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is expected to brief the Council. It is also possible that Lt. General Tadesse Werede Tesfay, the UNISFA Force Commander, will brief as well via videoconferencing. The Council is likely to renew the mandate of UNISFA, which expires on 27 December.

The fluid situation in many parts of Sudan and South Sudan, especially in regions along their shared border, will be on the minds of Council members and may prompt the Council to hold additional meetings during the month. Council members may likewise continue to negotiate a draft statement that was circulated in November that addresses the recent aerial bombings in Upper Nile and Unity states by Sudan and violations of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) status of forces agreement by South Sudan. It is unclear, however, if and when the statement will be adopted.

Key Recent Developments
On 3 November, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) seized Kurmuk in Blue Nile state, a stronghold of the rebel Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Yasir Arman, the SPLM-N Secretary-General, vowed that the group would continue to fight against the SAF, referring to the defeat as one battle in a larger war.

During November, Sudan and South Sudan submitted several letters to the Council accusing each other of supporting rebel groups on the other’s territory. On 4 November, Sudan sent a letter to the president of the Council in which it accused South Sudan of supporting insurgents in Blue Nile state. Among its accusations, the letter said that South Sudan continued to provide rebels in Blue Nile with ammunition, tanks, mines, grenade launchers, anti-tank artillery and troops. South Sudan submitted a letter to the Council on 11 November in which  it denied it was providing support to rebel groups in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and accused Khartoum of “fighting a proxy war” against it by supporting rebel groups there. On 14 November, Sudan sent another letter to the Council claiming that the government of South Sudan had “facilitated and hosted” meetings in Juba and Yei for representatives of several insurgent groups, including the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Mini Minawi, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid and the SPLM-N.

The Council issued a press statement on the situation in Abyei on 4 November. In the statement, the Council encouraged UNISFA to increase its patrols and air mobility. It also called on Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw their forces from Abyei immediately and without preconditions and to finalise the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration. The Council further expressed its willingness to consider additional mandated tasks for UNISFA in the statement, including support for border-monitoring assistance. However, it urged the parties to honour prior commitments concerning Abyei.    

Between 30 October and 6 November, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, visited Sudan and South Sudan, making stops in Khartoum, Darfur, Abyei and Juba. Ladsous noted that while in Abyei he had been struck by the property damage that had resulted from the SAF invasion earlier in the year but was impressed by the progress that had been made by UNISFA, which had rebuilt the Banton bridge. The bridge should help facilitate the return of displaced persons and improve humanitarian access.

Media reports indicated that the SAF conducted cross-border attacks on South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity states between 8 November and 11 November. On 8 November, an aerial raid in Guffa in Upper Nile state reportedly occurred. On 10 November, the Yida refugee camp in Unity state was bombed, with two bombs apparently landing in the camp and two outside it. On 10-11 November, fighting was reported in Manyo county in Upper Nile state, with personnel from UNMISS helping to evacuate the wounded. 

On 10 November, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios briefed the Council in closed consultations. Menkerios focused his remarks on negotiations on the unresolved Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) issues and tensions between the parties in Abyei, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. Menkerios said that the many unresolved CPA issues—including border demarcation, oil revenue-sharing, the status of Abyei and the popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile—remain a critical source of friction between Sudan and South Sudan. He noted that both Sudanese and South Sudanese troops remained in Abyei, which made it difficult for UNISFA to conduct its mandated tasks, for the Misseriya tribe to undertake its annual migration and for displaced individuals to return home. He also said that both sides continued to build up their military presence along their shared border and that the violence in Blue Nile and South Kordofan could draw the two states into direct confrontation.

On 11 November, the Council resumed the briefing on Sudan and South Sudan, this time in public. (It appears that some Council members requested that the briefing be held in the open.) During the meeting, Ladsous read the remarks that Menkerios had delivered the previous day. Ladsous also spoke about his recent visit to Sudan and South Sudan. He said that he urged the parties to seek a peaceful solution to the challenges dividing them but expressed concern that the recent cross-border incursions by Sudan in Unity and Upper Nile heightened tensions between the two countries. He said that Sudan accused South Sudan of supporting rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, while South Sudan accused Sudan of supporting rebels in the South. He noted that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had indicated that the SAF would leave Abyei once the Abyei Area Administration had been established.

Hilde Johnson, head of UNMISS, briefed as well (via video-conferencing). She said that UNMISS was in the process of confirming the reported 8 November bombings in Guffa and Yafta in Upper Nile and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had confirmed that the SAF had bombed the Yida refugee camp in Unity. She also mentioned that Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesperson Philip Aguer had reported an attack on 10-11 November on an SPLA base in Kuek in Upper Nile state that he alleged had left 18 dead and 73 wounded. 

Representatives from Sudan and South Sudan addressed the Council after Johnson. Sudan’s permanent representative, Daffa-All Elhag Ali Osman, denied that Sudan had launched cross-border attacks on South Sudan and noted the alliance between rebel groups from Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that had been made at Kauda. South Sudan’s acting permanent representative, David Buom Choat, said that his country was very concerned about the deteriorating security situation along the Sudan-South Sudan border, while calling on Sudan to cease military activities in South Sudan.

On 15 November, the Council held a briefing followed by closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNMISS. During the briefing, Ladsous confirmed that more than four bombs were dropped on Guffa on 8 November. He also said that four bombs were dropped on Yida on 10 November; according to eyewitnesses, they came from an Antonov plane flying from Sudan. While confirming that fighting took place in Manyo county in Upper Nile, he could not confirm claims that there had been incursions by ground forces across the Sudan-South Sudan border.    

Human Rights-Related Developments
Addressing the Council as part of the open debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts on 9 November, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported that violent clashes in South Sudan between heavily armed communities and a resurgence of armed activity by rebel factions were undermining the nation’s stability and posed a serious threat to civilians. She added that in order to stop the cycle of violent reprisals, the government needed more support to better control small arms and prosecute serious violators. Pillay furthermore referred to the Council’s mandate last June requesting the Secretary-General to ensure effective human rights monitoring of the situation in Abyei. Pillay lamented that, despite her office’s repeated requests, access to Abyei had been denied. In the absence of UN human rights officials in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State, effective monitoring was unachievable.

Key Issues
A key issue is the fact that neither of the two parties has withdrawn its troops from Abyei, in contravention of the 30 July agreement. (Sudan has indicated that it will withdraw its forces from Abyei once the Abyei Area Administration is formed, while South Sudan has indicated that it is prepared to redeploy its forces from the region if Sudan does so without conditions.) 

A related key issue is whether displaced persons returning to Abyei will hinder the annual migration of the Misseriya tribe southward through Abyei.  (The Misseriya tribe is generally sympathetic to the government in Khartoum, while many of the residents of Abyei who have been displaced are supportive of South Sudan.) This could potentially lead to violence, which could escalate due to the continuing presence of forces from Sudan and South Sudan in the region.

A further key issue is the difficulty for Council members to obtain clear and timely information about the situation in the border regions of Sudan and South Sudan. 
Underlying Problems
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Council to address the complex and interconnected political and humanitarian challenges along the border of Sudan and South Sudan given the tension between the parties and their apparent unwillingness to honour prior agreements. Furthermore, the lack of progress on resolving several core issues of the CPA—the status of Abyei, oil wealth-sharing and border demarcation, among others—seems to both reflect and exacerbate the distrust tainting the relationship between them.      

Options for the Council regarding the renewal of UNISFA’s mandate include:

  • renewing the mandate of UNISFA without changes;
  • adding border-monitoring support tasks to the mandate; and
  • reiterating key messages from the 4 November press statement, including the need for the parties to withdraw their forces from Abyei and establish the Abyei Area Administration.

Another option is for the Council to request a briefing from Thabo Mbeki, the head of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, regarding progress on the negotiations about the creation of the Abyei Area Administration, as well as on other residual CPA issues that the panel is helping to resolve. The Council may also consider requesting a briefing from Mbeki, Menkerios, Johnson, and Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID, in order to explore ideas for a more holistic approach to Sudan-South Sudan issues.

An additional option for the Council is to request the Secretary-General to launch a fact-finding mission to conduct a thorough investigation of the bombings in Upper Nile and Unity states, as well as the recent ground combat in Kuek, Upper Nile.   

Council Dynamics
It seems that Council members are extremely concerned with the recent violence in the regions along the Sudan and South Sudan border. There are likewise fears among some Council members that violence like that which occurred in Unity and Upper Nile states in November could draw the two parties back into war. There is a sense among many Council members that the Council needs to respond to the incursions in these two areas. However, some members of the Council seem to be concerned about what they perceive as a lack of clarity regarding the information they have been provided about these events.

Council members appear to be in favour of renewing the mandate of UNISFA. However, it is not clear whether the renewal will include a border-monitoring support role for the mission.  While there appears to be broad support on the Council for according the mission with this additional role, there are differences of opinion regarding whether the current situation on the ground would allow for it. One perspective on the Council is that it is important that a border monitoring support mechanism be in place as soon as possible to help curtail violence in the border regions. However, some members remain concerned that neither party has honoured their agreement to withdraw their troops from the region. Some members also seem to believe that it will be difficult for UNISFA to carry out a border-monitoring support role until the mission is closer to full deployment. (As of 31 October, 2,812 troops and 80 military observers had been deployed; the mission has a mandate for a maximum of 4,200 military personnel.)  

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6656 (11 November 2011) was a briefing on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.  


  • S/2011/714 (14 November 2011) and S/2011/691 (4 November 2011) were letters from the permanent representative of Sudan to the Council.
  • S/2011/708 (11 November 2011) was from the acting permanent representative of South Sudan to the Council. 
  • S/2011/511 (9 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. 

Press Statement

  • SC/10436 (4 November 2011) was a Council press statement on Abyei. 

Other Relevant Facts

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 31 October: 2,892 total uniformed personnel
Troop contributor: Ethiopia
Duration: 27 June to present; mandate expires 27 December

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