Sudan and South Sudan
Expected Council Action
In April, the Council expects to be briefed in consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the situation in Abyei. No outcome was anticipated at press time.
Given the fluid and unpredictable nature of events in Sudan and South Sudan, Council members are also likely to follow closely such issues as the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, events along the Sudan-South Sudan border and the unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan related to oil revenue-sharing, border demarcation, citizenship and other matters. It is possible that meetings on one or more of these subjects could occur during the month, depending on how events unfold on the ground.
Key Recent Developments
The Council discussed the last report of the Secretary-General on Abyei in consultations on 9 February. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council during the meeting. Some of the discussion focused on progress UNISFA had made in protecting civilians and demining. However, it was also noted in the meeting that Sudanese armed forces and police and South Sudanese police remained in Abyei, while the Abyei Area Administration had yet to be established. (It appears that a major sticking point regarding the establishment of the administration is that the parties have been unable to agree on a mutually acceptable candidate for the speaker of the administration’s Legislative Council. South Sudan has said that Sudan agreed to nominate a member of the Ngok-Dinka ethnic group to the position, while Sudan has denied this.)
The humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states remained a significant focus of international attention. On 9 February, the UN, the AU and the Arab League presented a tripartite proposal to provide humanitarian aid to civilians in both government and rebel controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Council adopted a press statement on 14 February expressing its alarm at humanitarian conditions in both states. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has expressed willingness to accept the tripartite proposal, but the government of Sudan has been reluctant to do so. On 6 March, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali-Osman, the permanent representative of Sudan, said at the Council stakeout that the Sudanese government was considering the proposal.
Council members held an “informal interactive dialogue” on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan on 27 February. Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel charged with facilitating the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, and Haile Menkerios, UN Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, addressed Council members during the meeting. (Held outside Council chambers, the informal interactive dialogue is a flexible format that allows the Council to meet with actors—in this case, the AU High-Level Implementation Panel—with whom it would not be able to meet in consultations inside the Council chambers.) During the meeting, Mbeki gave a comprehensive briefing on the issues dividing Sudan and South Sudan and the status of negotiations on these issues.
Largely in response to the briefing by Mbeki and Menkerios during this “interactive dialogue,” the Council issued a presidential statement on 6 March, that inter alia:
- demanded that Sudan and South Sudan cease violence along their shared border;
- urged the parties to reach agreement on unresolved issues, such as border demarcation, oil revenue-sharing and the status of Abyei;
- deeply deplored the ongoing presence of security forces from both parties in Abyei;
- encouraged the government of Sudan to accept the AU-UN-Arab League tripartite agreement on humanitarian access in Blue Nile and South Kordofan; and
- affirmed that “unilateral action related to the oil sector is detrimental to the security, stability, and prosperity” of Sudan and South Sudan.
Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations on 29 February to discuss the situation along the Sudan-South Sudan border. The briefing focused on fighting that occurred on 27 February between the Sudanese Armed Forces and SPLM-N rebels in Jau, a disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border. (The rebels claimed to have killed 150 Sudanese troops during the fighting, while Sudan accused South Sudanese military officers of assisting the rebels.) It appears that Ladsous was unable to confirm reports of the clash, indicating that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) does not have a presence in the area. In addition to the 27 February incident in Jau, it seems that Ladsous also said that several other border skirmishes had transpired since the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding on non-aggression and cooperation on 10 February.
On 29 February, Hilde Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS, met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum. The repatriation of South Sudanese citizens residing in Sudan was an important focus of the discussion. During the meeting, Johnson mentioned the need for safe return routes and an extension of the 8 April deadline for repatriation.
On 13 March, representatives of Sudan and South Sudan initialled two agreements in Addis Abba: the Agreement on the Demarcation of the Boundary and the Framework Agreement on the Status of Nationals of the Other State and Related Matters. The agreement on boundary demarcation establishes mechanisms to oversee and conduct the demarcation process. The agreement on nationality accords citizens of South Sudan the right to reside, own property, work and travel in Sudan, while permitting Sudanese citizens to do the same in South Sudan.
Despite these positive developments, tensions escalated significantly between Sudan and South Sudan in late March. On 26 March, skirmishes between the armed forces of both countries were reported in areas along their mutual border, putting into doubt whether Bashir and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan would hold a peace summit that had been planned for early April in Juba. Additionally, on 27 March, the Sudanese air force reportedly dropped bombs near the Bentiu oil fields in Unity State in South Sudan.
Responding to the violence between the parties—while also reiterating some of the language of the 6 March presidential statement—the Council issued a press statement on 27 March that, inter-alia:
- expressed alarm at the military clashes along the Sudan-South Sudan border and demanded that the countries cease violence in the border regions;
- urged Sudan and South Sudan to demonstrate restraint and peacefully address the issues dividing them;
- urged the parties to pursue requisite steps to make operational the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism;
- reiterated the importance of delivering humanitarian assistance to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to prevent further deterioration of the crisis in these areas of Sudan; and
- urged the parties to continue negotiations with the support of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel.
Human-Rights Related Developments
On 26 March, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, briefed the press on her recent visit to South Sudan at the noon briefing of the Secretary-General’s spokesperson at UN headquarters. She noted that children in militias and regional camps continue to be integrated into the South Sudanese armed forces, while adding that she hoped there would be a clear directive from the government to cease this practice so that the armed forces could be considered for delisting. Coomaraswamy said that one challenge will be reintegrating the former child combatants in an environment in which economic opportunities are limited and in which only about 4 precent of children attend secondary school. She said that the government should make education a priority.
An ongoing key issue is the continuing presence of security forces from Sudan and South Sudan in Abyei in violation of the 20 June 2011 agreement between the parties. A related issue is how the presence of these security forces creates potential for conflict with internally displaced persons returning to Abyei and nomads migrating through the area.
Another important issue is the fact that the Abyei Area Administration has yet to be established. (Sudan has indicated that it will not remove its security forces from Abyei until the administration is established.)
A further key issue is the fact that UNISFA cannot conduct its mandated border-monitoring support role until the parties map out the safe demilitarised border zone and agree on a headquarters and sector sites for the monitoring mechanism.
An additional important issue is the delay by the government of Sudan in issuing visas for non-Ethiopian staff officers and military observers designated to serve in UNISFA.
Another issue is whether Sudan will agree to the UN-AU-Arab League tripartite agreement, how this plan would be implemented and what impact it would have on the humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
A further important issue is what impact the 8 April deadline for the more than 500,000 people of South Sudanese origin residing in Sudan to regularise their status or return the South Sudan will have on the security and humanitarian environment in both countries. Although the initialling of the 13 March agreement on nationality appeared to be a positive development, it is unclear whether this agreement will be implemented in light of the deterioration of relations between the two countries in late March. Additional issues of importance include how large the influx of returnees will be leading up to 8 April and whether Sudan will improve access to viable return routes.
Repeated skirmishes along the disputed Sudan-South Sudan border—as well as South Sudan’s ongoing shutdown of its oil production despite the very harmful impact on its economy—continue to undermine trust and cooperation between the two countries. The considerable mistrust and suspicion between Sudan and South Sudan also appears to dampen the leverage that the Council is able to have on their calculations. (The violence of late March occurred only weeks after the 6 March presidential statement.)
With regard to UNISFA, the Council could discuss the Secretary-General’s report but take no formal action at the present time. Another option would be to consider issuing a statement that:
- reiterates calls made in the 6 March presidential statement for the departure of Sudanese and South Sudanese security forces from Abyei and the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration;
- signals its support for the 13 March agreement on boundary demarcation;
- encourages the parties to expedite the establishment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism; and
- responds to the summit between the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan or expresses concern if it is cancelled.
Regarding the humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, the Council may consider calling for a briefing from Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, or other OCHA officials, if and when more information becomes available on the situation on the ground.
Additionally, more regular interaction with Mbeki or other members of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on the status of negotiations, either in person or via videoconference, could be helpful to the Council’s decision-making processes.
There appears to be concern among several Council members that the situation in Abyei has reached an apparent stalemate with, for example, security forces from both sides still in the region and no progress in establishing the Abyei Area Administration. While many members believe that UNISFA is doing a good job, some are concerned that the mission cannot conduct all of its mandated tasks (for example, border-monitoring support) because of a lack of progress between Sudan and South Sudan in resolving fundamental political and technical issues.
Several members seem to have found Mbeki’s briefing in the “informal interactive dialogue” very useful in gaining an understanding of the status of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan and the dynamics in the relationship between them.
Several elected members seem to feel that key permanent members have demonstrated a greater willingness than had been the case in the past to be flexible and pragmatic on Sudan and South Sudan issues. (This is reflected by the fact that the 6 March presidential statement and the 27 March press statements were negotiated in relatively condensed time periods.) Nonetheless, there is widespread concern among Council members at the very fragile state of relations between Sudan and South Sudan and the negative impact that these tensions have on their ability to reach agreement on the issues separating them.
The US is the lead country on UNISFA.
Security Council Resolutions
Latest Secretary-General’s Report
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 and Composition
Maximum authorised strength: up to 4,200 military and 50 police