January 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2011
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action 
In January, the Council may review the force level of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  (On 8 July 2011, in resolution 1996, the Council expressed its intention to review the force level of UNMISS after three months and six months to determine whether conditions on the ground could permit a reduction of military personnel from a maximum of 7,000 to 6,000.)  At press time, whether and in what format the Council would discuss this issue in January remained unclear. A resolution would be required if the Council were to reduce the mandated force level to 6,000 military personnel. 

The fluid situation along the Sudan and South Sudan border could prompt the Council to hold additional meetings during the course of the month. 

The mandate of UNMISS expires on 8 July 2012. 

Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNMISS was released on 2 November 2011. The report noted political progress that had been made by the government of South Sudan with the appointment of a new cabinet in early September that is more regionally and ethnically diverse than the former caretaker government.  

However, it also discussed the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in resolving residual Comprehensive Peace Agreement issues, outlined the continuing inter-communal violence in South Sudan and warned of significant food insecurity in several states in the new country. The report further indicated the importance of developing government institutions. Given insecurity in South Sudan and limited projection of state authority, the report recommended that the troop strength of UNMISS be maintained at 7,000 military personnel for the time being. (The Council was scheduled to receive a briefing from DPKO on the force level of UNMISS in October 2011. This briefing was cancelled, although it seems discussion of UNMISS’s force level did take place during the Council’s deliberations on South Sudan in November.)

Clashes between Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) occurred in the disputed border town of Jau on 3 December 2011. These clashes appear to have ensued for a number of days. According to the SPLA, Sudanese armed forces employed tanks, long-range artillery fire and aerial bombardments during the fighting. South Sudanese officials have said that Jau, which is just north of the Yide refugee camp in Unity state, which was bombed in November 2011, is part of South Sudan. Sudanese officials have said that Jau is in South Kordofan state in Sudan and that the town is used as a supply route for SPLA rebels in South Kordofan.

Briefing reporters in Geneva on 9 December, Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), expressed concern that the violence in Jau could spread to the Yide refugee camp. She said that some refugees had fled the camp because of fear that the nearby fighting could reach Yide, while between 60 and 110 people continued to arrive at the camp on a daily basis. She also noted that the violence had disrupted efforts by UNHCR and other organisations to provide aid to the camp’s inhabitants. Fleming added that more than 50,000 refugees had entered South Sudan in recent months from Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in Sudan.

Violence in Jonglei state in South Sudan continued in recent weeks. On 5 December 2011, over 35 people were killed and 22 injured in Bor county during an apparent cattle-raiding incident. (In May, the Council visited the county to familiarise itself with the assistance the UN was providing in the resolution of cattle-related disputes.) UNMISS personnel investigating the incident evacuated four of the wounded to Juba. Forces affiliated with rebel leader George Athor reportedly attacked villages in Pigi county on 11 December, resulting in the deaths of five SPLA troops, five civilians and 24 rebels.  

Athor was killed in a clash with South Sudanese forces in Morobo County in Central Equatoria state on 19 December 2011. South Sudanese officials have said that Athor was in the region recruiting troops to support his rebellion. 

China dispatched Liu Guijin, its special representative for African affairs, to Khartoum and Juba in early December in an effort to mediate the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan regarding transit fees for oil from South Sudan that runs through pipelines in Sudan before leaving Port Sudan on the Red Sea. (The two countries have been unable to agree on an appropriate transit fee, with Sudan requesting fees between $US32 and $US36 per barrel, a range that South Sudan has rejected.) A statement on the website of the Chinese embassy in South Sudan expressed the hope that Sudan and South Sudan would demonstrate “restraint and resolve…pending issues through dialogue and negotiations.”

On 14-15 December 2011, the US and South Sudanese governments hosted the high-level International Engagement Conference on South Sudan in Washington, DC, which focused on strategies to promote the socioeconomic development of South Sudan. Senior officials from both countries—as well as from the UK, Norway, Turkey, the EU, the AU, the UN, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Corporate Council on Africa, and InterAction—participated in the conference. The conference, inter-alia, explored ways to help South Sudan:

  • manage natural resources effectively; 
  • strengthen the agricultural, educational and health care sectors;
  • promote international trade with and investment in the country; and
  • enhance the participation of women and youth in society.

During the conference, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US would continue supporting UNMISS’s “important work to preserve peace, safeguard human rights, and protect civilians.”  

Human Rights-Related Developments
In a message issued by South Sudan’s president on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2011), the government acknowledged the urgent need to revise existing laws and enact new ones to ensure they met international human rights standards. Priorities included the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Commenting separately, UNMISS Head of Mission Hilde F. Johnson said, “South Sudan has to sign up to the critical human rights conventions, so that as a new and independent country, it is anchored in a firm foundation of human rights.” Johnson added that UNMISS had a strong human rights mandate to monitor, investigate, verify and report human rights violations.


Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether to maintain the mandated force level of UNMISS at up to 7,000 troops or to reduce the number of military personnel to 6,000 troops.

Another key issue for the Council is to explore ways in which UNMISS and the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) can complement each other most effectively. (For example, air assets and facilities from UNMISS may be used to provide support for UNISFA’s newly mandated border-monitoring support role.)  

A related issue for the Council is how to address the recent violence between Sudan and South Sudan along their mutual border and the potential for this fighting to escalate into a larger-scale conflict.  

Another important and ongoing issue is the inter-communal and rebel violence in South Sudan, particularly in Unity and Jonglei states. A related issue is the security problem created by land mines laid by rebels in Unity state in recent months.

Another issue that persists in parts of South Sudan is food scarcity sparked by irregular rainfall, violent conflict and Sudanese border closures. (The UN World Food Programme indicated on 15 December 2011 that South Sudan confronted a “severe hunger crisis,” with up to one-third of its people plagued by hunger.) 

Underlying Problems
The legacy of more than two decades of civil war has presented South Sudan with enormous challenges.  Socioeconomic development is at a minimal level, as reflected by low literacy rates and the poor quality of health services available to the population. The weakness of governing institutions, the dearth of trained civil servants and corruption are also among the significant challenges facing the new country.

Options for the Council with regard to the force level of UNMISS include: 

  • maintaining the mandated force level at up to 7,000 military personnel;
  • reducing the mandated force level to 6,000 military personnel; and
  • requesting a further analysis of the UNMISS force level at a later date, once benchmarks for the mission and a plan for UN-system support for peacebuilding tasks in South Sudan have been established. (UNMISS benchmarks and the UN plan to support peacebuilding in South Sudan are expected to be discussed in the next Secretary-General’s report on UNMISS in March 2012.)

The Council could also request a briefing from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations that explores complementarities between UNMISS and UNISFA.  

Another option would be for the ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to develop strategies to address the security challenges faced by South Sudan and report back to the Council proper.

Council Dynamics
There is general consensus on the Council that UNMISS’s presence is an important factor in addressing the tenuous security situation in South Sudan. Council members are concerned about the many challenges facing South Sudan—including inter-communal violence, rebel activity and the government’s limited institutional capacity.  

One perspective on the Council is that the many security challenges in South Sudan require that the force level of the mission remain at its current level. Another perspective is that it might be possible to adjust the force level downward.  Several Council members seem to be open-minded about a critical assessment by DPKO in helping them to determine the appropriate force level for UNMISS moving forward. There is a sense among some Council members that such an assessment would be particularly useful at the current time, given the potential implications that UNISFA’s added border-monitoring role may have on the activities of UNMISS.

Strong concerns remain among many Council members about the fighting along the Sudan and South Sudan border and the potential for this violence to escalate into larger-scale violence between the two countries. Different perspectives among Council members on issues, such as how to apportion responsibility for the violence and the reliability of information being provided, have hampered the Council’s efforts to address the recent fighting.

The US is the lead country on UNMISS. 

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2024 (14 December 2011) added a border-monitoring support role to UNISFA’s mandate. 
  • S/RES/1997 (11 July 2011) liquidated UNMIS.
  • S/RES/1996 (8 July 2011) established UNMISS.
  • S/RES/1990 (27 June 2011) established UNISFA.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report


  • S/2011/763 (8 December 2011) was from South Sudan to the Security Council accusing Sudan of cross-border incursions and urging the international community to apply more pressure on Sudan to respect South Sudan’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. 
  • 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. 


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 November: 5,528 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)

Full forecast


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