February 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2012
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action
The Council expects to hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA). At press time, no outcome was anticipated.

Given the unpredictable and fluid nature of events in South Sudan and along the Sudan and South Sudan border, it is also possible that unfolding developments in these regions may warrant heightened Council attention in February.  (At press time, the Council was negotiating a press statement addressing the humanitarian and security situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, although it is unclear if and when the Council will reach agreement on the statement.)

The mandate of UNISFA expires on 22 May, while the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 8 July. 

Key Recent Developments
In December 2011, the Council adopted resolutions 2024 and 2032 on Abyei, the disputed territory straddling Sudan and South Sudan. Resolution 2024 expanded UNISFA’s mandate to include a border-monitoring support role. In particular, the resolution gave UNISFA several additional tasks to support the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) agreed by Sudan and South Sudan, including, inter alia, supporting the JBVMM with monitoring, verification, reporting, information-sharing and patrols. Resolution 2032 renewed UNISFA for a further five months, incorporating the additional tasks outlined in resolution 2024.

On 21 January, the AU issued a communiqué in which it announced that a meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) that had been scheduled from 21 to 26 January in Addis Ababa had been cancelled.  (In resolution 2032, the Council urged the parties to use the JPSM, which they established as a part of their 29 June 2011 agreement, “to resolve outstanding issues related to finalization of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, the resolution of disputed border areas, border demarcation, and the mapping of the border zone.”)

On 4 January, Nafie Ali Nafie, the deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan, during a rally in Khartoum, warned South Sudan against attacking Abyei, which he claimed is part of Sudan. (According to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the Second Sudanese Civil War, a referendum was scheduled for January 2011 to determine whether Abyei would become part of Sudan or South Sudan. It never took place because the parties could not agree on criteria for voter eligibility.)

Jonglei state in South Sudan witnessed high levels of inter-communal violence in late December and throughout much of January. On 3 January, Lise Grande, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, briefed the press in New York via videoconference. During the briefing, Grande described how a heavily armed column of approximately 8,000 youth from the Lou Nuer ethnic group marched toward settlements in Jonglei inhabited by the Murle ethnic group in late December 2011.

UNMISS was able to provide warning of the impending attacks to inhabitants of two towns that were targeted, Lukangole and Pibor. According to Grande, much of the population had fled Lukangole by the time the Lou Nuer column arrived on 30 December. When the column reached Pibor by 1 January, UNMISS troops supporting Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops, created a defensive perimeter that protected part of Pibor, although the youth entered the town and set part of it on fire. The column left Pibor with large numbers of cattle on 3 January after being shot at by SPLA troops.    

Grande emphasised the serious humanitarian crisis resulting from the displacement of thousands of people from Lukangole and Pibor, noting that the displaced had been left without food, shelter, water or access to medical attention. She added that various UN entities had rescued and evacuated civilians, provided relief and deterred additional violence. She also noted that the UN would continue to provide emergency assistance and track the movement of the column of Lou Nuer youth.

Meanwhile, according to Grande, the South Sudanese government had taken steps to promote reconciliation and quell the violence between the ethnic groups. Reich Machar, the Vice President of South Sudan, met with delegations of Lou Nuer and Murle in the region, while President Salva Kiir said in an address to the nation that political leaders stoking the violence would be held accountable.

On 5 January, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peackeeping Operations, briefed the Council in consultations on the violence in Jonglei. At the stakeout afterwards, he underscored the gravity of the inter-ethnic crisis, saying that the situation was “very serious” and that UNMISS personnel had seen several dozen corpses. (Joshua Konyi, the Pibor county commissioner, claimed that 3,141 were killed in the violence; however, the number of deceased has not been definitively confirmed).

Ladsous emphasised the challenges facing the mission and fuelling the violence in Jonglei. The lack of roads in Jonglei and an insufficient number of helicopters hindered UNMISS’ ability to respond to crisis situations. He added that the large quantities of weapons in South Sudan were a cause for concern.

On 9 January, the Council issued a  press statement  in which it expressed deep concern at the inter-communal violence between the Lou Nuer and Murle in Jonglei and called for an end to the violence through reconciliation. While welcoming the efforts of the South Sudanese government in mediating between the two groups and commending the response of UNMISS to the situation, the statement also expressed concern with UNMISS’ lack of aircraft and with the level and sophistication of weapons used in the attacks. It further called on UNMISS to continue its support to the government of South Sudan with security sector reform, including the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former rebels.

On 16 January, Murle conducted a series of retaliatory attacks in Akobo, Uror and Duk counties in central Jonglei, claiming the lives of more than 51 people from the Lou Nuer and Dinka groups. In a 19 January press conference in Juba, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS, said that “all concerned should redouble their efforts to put an immediate end to the cycle of violence, which is putting thousands of lives at risk and threatening the stability of the whole area.” She subsequently urged the South Sudanese government to send more soldiers and police to areas between rival ethnic groups in Jonglei in order to protect civilians and quell tensions. 

On 17 January, the Council held consultations on the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, and Antonio Gutierrez (participating via videoconference), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, briefed the Council on their recent trip to Sudan. It seems that they painted a grim picture of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  

Tensions between Sudan and South Sudan over oil income escalated in January, as the two countries have been unable to agree on a transit fee for oil from South Sudan shipped through Sudan. Sudan prevented two ships filled with South Sudanese oil from leaving port, and according to Stephen Dhieu Dau, South Sudan’s Minister of Petroleum and Mining, began diverting approximately 120,000 barrels of South Sudanese oil per day, apparently in response to the lack of progress in negotiations on a transit fee. On 22 January, South Sudan began to shut down its oil production as a retaliatory measure.

On 24 January, the South Sudanese government signed an agreement in Juba with the Kenyan government for the construction of an oil pipeline from South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Lamu. (Currently, the only outlet to the sea for South Sudanese oil is through Sudan’s Red Sea port at Port Sudan.)

On 23 January, the AU issued a communiqué that expressed concern with the deterioration of relations between Sudan and South Sudan. Noting Sudan’s diversion of South Sudanese oil and South Sudan’s decision to stop its oil production, the communiqué cautioned that “these reciprocal unilateral measures threated grave damage to the economic prospects of both countries and relations between them.” The document also noted that the AU High-Level Implementation Panel had presented a proposal to Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the impasse on “the question of oil and transitional financial arrangements” that both parties were considering.

On 24 January, the Russian government announced that it would withdraw its remaining four helicopters from UNMISS by 1 April. In December 2011, it withdrew four helicopters from the mission after attacks on its helicopters in South Sudan.    

Human Rights-Related Developments

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir issued a republican decree on 11 January to form a National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR). The decree is in line with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, under which the government committed itself to ensure the effective functioning of the NCHR. The commission is required to establish “decentralised, independent, autonomous and resourced Human Rights Sub-Committees for Darfur” to monitor and promote human rights in Darfur. Those sub-committees will also report on progress made toward implementing the principle of equality between states and among citizens in Sudan.

Key Issues
Regarding UNISFA and the situation in Abyei, key issues for the Council include:

  • supporting negotiations between the parties on border-related issues, whose resolution will help to enable the parties to operationalize  a border-monitoring mechanism supported by UNISFA;
  • determining how to address the presence of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and South Sudanese police in Abyei;
  • determining how to compel Sudan and South Sudan to provide maps of mined areas to facilitate the demining efforts of UNISFA; and
  • assisting the parties in resolving their differences over the establishment of an Abyei Area Administration, as they have been unable to agree on mutually acceptable candidates to fill high-level positions in the administration.

Concerning the violence in Jonglei, key issues for the Council include:

  • ensuring that the mission has sufficient mobility to prevent and quickly respond to crisis situations, including through obtaining and employing requisite aerial assets;
  • supporting the South Sudanese government in providing security for and promoting reconciliation between various ethnic groups; and
  • addressing the proliferation of weapons in Jonglei, in accordance with the recent press statement on Jonglei, which expressed concern about the quantity and sophistication of weapons used in recent inter-communal violence.

With respect to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, key issues for the Council include:

  • ensuring that humanitarian access is provided to both regions; and
  • addressing the ongoing violence in these states.


Options for the Council concerning Abyei and UNISFA include:

  • receiving the briefing and taking no action at the current time; or
  • issuing a statement in which the Council reiterates its calls for unauthorised armed personnel to leave Abyei, as well as for both parties to redouble efforts to negotiate the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration and to provide detailed maps of mined areas in Abyei.

Depending on how events on the ground unfold in Jonglei throughout February, the Council could consider holding an Arria-formula meeting with NGOs with a presence on the ground to gain a better understanding of the inter-communal dynamics in South Sudan.

With regard to the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Council could request a follow-up briefing with Amos, if it is felt that additional information from her regarding events transpiring in these regions would be helpful. It may also consider adopting a statement condemning the violence in both areas, expressing concern at the gravity of the humanitarian situation and calling for improved humanitarian access.

Council Dynamics
After the adoption of two resolutions on UNISFA in December, Council members were not primarily focused on the situation in Abyei throughout January, as their attention was largely engaged on other regions in Sudan and South Sudan. It appears that the Secretary-General’s report on Abyei, scheduled to be released on 27 January but still pending at press time, will provide an opportunity for Council members to renew their substantive engagement on Abyei. There was widespread support in the Council for tasking UNISFA with a border-monitoring support role (although it is unclear if and when conditions on the ground will enable the mission to carry out this role in a meaningful way, given the lack of trust between Sudan and South Sudan).

Regarding the situation in Jonglei, it seems that several Council members are worried about the escalation of retaliatory attacks among different ethnic groups. Some members believe that more aircraft are needed to enable UNMISS to respond more quickly to crisis situations before they escalate. Most members are concerned at the proliferation of weapons in Jonglei, and are keen for enhanced progress on the demilitarisation and reintegration of former rebel groups.

Many Council members are troubled by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan and believe that there is a need for enhanced humanitarian access to these regions.  The US in particular has underscored the enormity of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in both areas.  However, it seems that concerns persist among some members about the need to respect Sudan’s sovereignty, especially in regard to the government’s efforts to fight rebels challenging its authority. It also appears that some members question the severity of the crisis.

The US is the lead country on UNISFA and UNMISS.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2032 (22 December 2011) renewed UNISFA’s mandate.
  • 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.


  • S/2012/40 (17 January 2012) was a letter from Sudan to the Council on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
  • S/2012/37 (16 January 2012) was a letter from the US to the Council on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
  •  SC/10514 (9 January 2012) was a press statement on the inter-communal violence in Jonglei state in South Sudan.

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 December 2011: 3,798 total uniformed personnel
Troop contributor: Ethiopia
Duration: 22 December 2011 to present; mandate expires 22 May 2012.

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