December 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2012
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Sudan/South Sudan

Expected Council Action

The Council will likely meet twice in December to discuss Sudan and South Sudan issues in accordance with resolution 2046.  In the context of these meetings, it is expected to discuss the status of negotiations among Sudan, South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and potential options for resolving the remaining issues separating these parties.  A report from the Secretary-General on these matters was released on 26 November (S/2012/877). At press time, it was unclear whether there would be an outcome to the Council’s deliberations on Sudan and South Sudan in December.

The Council is also likely to discuss in consultations in December the latest report of the Secretary-General on the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), whose mandate expires on 31 May 2013.  No Council outcome is anticipated from this meeting on UNISFA.

Key Recent Developments

The Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), which consists of representatives from Sudan and South Sudan and addresses security concerns of both countries, met on 5-7 November.  (In resolution 2032, adopted on 22 December 2011, the Council urged the parties to use the JPSM “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.”)  

The major tasks of the meeting were for Sudan and South Sudan to take the necessary measures needed to develop the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), a buffer zone between the two countries, and to implement the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along their mutual border.  However, the parties did not make progress in establishing these border security measures.  Accordingly, while AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma welcomed the meeting in a 10 November press release, she noted that “the meeting could not reach agreement on practical steps to implement security arrangements.”

Fighting has continued between Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-N rebel group in South Kordorfan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. On 31 October, the SPLM-N claimed that it killed 30 troops and wounded 25 others in East El-Leri, South Kordofan, during an attack on an army camp.  Apparently in response to the incident, Defence Minister Abdurrahim Mohamed Hussein said that Sudan would step up aerial attacks in the region. 

On 2 November, heavy fighting occurred in Dal Dako village northeast of Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. The SPLM-N alleged that it repelled an attack by Sudanese Armed Forces and killed 70 troops in the process. However, Ahmed Haroun—the governor of South Kordofan, whom the International Criminal Court has indicted for Darfur-related crimes—challenged the SPLM-N’s depiction of events, arguing that the rebel forces were defeated.  Haroun further dismissed the idea of negotiations with the SPLM-N as long as the rebels remain committed to violence.

SPLM-N spokesman Arnu Ngutulu Lodi released a statement on 5 November accusing Haroun of detaining and summarily executing 16 civilians from the Nuba ethnic group in the aftermath of clashes between the SPLM-N and the armed forces on 21 October in Talodi county in South Kordofan. 

The humanitarian situation in the border area has deteriorated. On 9 November, UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said 1,050 Sudanese refugees now residing in South Sudan had contracted hepatitis E.  He added that 26 refugees in camps in Upper Nile state in South Sudan had died from the disease. (More than 175,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled fighting and food insecurity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile now live in South Sudan.)

On 6 November, Sudan announced that it would be withdrawing from the AU, UN, and Arab League Tripartite Initiative to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  It noted that the three-month period outlined for the implementation of assistance in the memorandum of understanding signed in early August had expired without progress.  (Sudan blamed the SPLM-N for the failure of the initiative, accusing it of “failing to respond to practical requests including cease-fire, opening of passages and allowing…humanitarian workers to access the areas controlled by the rebels.” Meanwhile, the SPLM-N has accused Sudan of purposely undermining the initiative through stalling tactics and placing obstacles before international actors facilitating the initiative.)

After leaders from the Misseriya ethnic group, which is generally supportive of Sudan, met with UNISFA’s leadership in Abyei town on 12 November, members of the Dinka ethnic group initiated a protest.  (Much of the leadership in Juba consists of Dinka.)  In clashes between UNISFA personnel and Dinka demonstrators, a Dinka UNISFA national staff member was killed and another staff member was wounded.   UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence in a press statement issued on 13 November.

The Council held consultations on 14 November with Haile Menkerios, UN Special Envoy on Sudan and South Sudan, and Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Menkerios expressed concern about the lack of progress in implementing the Tripartite Initiative.  He also noted that Sudan and South Sudan were still discussing the technical modalities of implementing the JBVMM.  Ladsous discussed the recent tensions between the Dinka and Misseriya communities in Abyei, as well as the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-N near Kadugli.  

On 16 November, the Council adopted resolution 2075 renewing the mandate of UNISFA until 31 May 2013.  In the resolution, the Council urged Sudan and South Sudan “to activate the JBVMM” and “establish the SDBZ” along their mutual border.  It also demanded that Sudan and South Sudan establish the Abyei Area Administration and constitute the Abyei Police Service.  The Council also recalled but did not endorse the 24 October communiqué of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC).  (This appears to be a significant point as the PSC communiqué called on the Security Council to endorse a request for the parties to resolve the status of Abyei within six weeks, with plans for an Abyei referendum as the basis of the discussions; an endorsement of this proposal was a measure the Council was apparently unwilling to take at the current time.)   

The Council held consultations on 28 November on Sudan and South Sudan.  During the meeting, Menkerios noted with concern the lack of progress made by the parties in implementing 27 September agreements on security (including the border mechanisms), oil wealth-sharing, cross-border trade and other issues.  It seems that he especially underscored the urgency of establishing the JBVMM and the SDBZ, given recent reports of fighting along the border.  

On 22 November, Sudan arrested 13 people, accusing them of plotting a coup against President Omar al-Bashir’s government.   Among those arrested were Major General Salah Gosh, the former head of Sudan’s intelligence service, and Brigadier General Mohammed Ibrahim, a key figure in the Sudanese Armed Forces.   Although details remain unclear, some analysts believe that the arrests represent a crackdown on dissent in the ruling National Congress Party and the security services. 

Key Issues

A key issue is how the Council can facilitate implementation of the 27 September agreements. (It will likely be challenging to implement several of these agreements effectively as long as there is instability along the border in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and other regions.)  

Another key issue moving forward is how the Council will decide to approach the impasse over the status of Abyei.  (While South Sudan has expressed its willingness to accept the AU High-Level Implementation Panel’s 21 September proposal for a referendum to decide Abyei’s status, Sudan has indicated an unwillingness to do so.)  

A related issue is the heightened tension between the Misseriya and Dinka communities in Abyei. 

Underlying Problems

The apparent failure of the Tripartite Initiative to date underscores the intractable challenges in addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  The violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continues to contribute to food insecurity and population displacement.

Meanwhile there has not been progress on the political front. Sudan and the SPLM-N have not been able to agree to a ceasefire, nor have they demonstrated the willingness to negotiate directly with one another.  Absent political progress, fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is likely to intensify in the coming months, accompanied by an influx of more refugees into South Sudan with the onset of the dry season in November.  (The dry season makes it less difficult for both troops and civilians to move over territory that is impassable or difficult to traverse during the rainy season.) 


Options for the Council include:

  • inviting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs to brief on the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile;
  • holding an “Arria formula” meeting with experts on Abyei to gain a better understanding of the aspirations and grievances of Dinka and Misseriya communities in the region; and
  • considering the imposition of sanctions on the parties for failing to comply with resolution 2046.

The Council could also consider a visiting mission to Khartoum and Juba to meet with government officials and underscore the importance of avoiding conflict, implementing the 27 September agreements and pursuing constructive dialogue to resolve the remaining issues separating them.

Council Dynamics

Several Council members appear keen to see progress between the parties in implementing the 27 September agreements.  Strong concerns also persist among members about the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the related humanitarian crisis in these two states, which has led to an influx of refugees into South Sudan and Ethiopia.    

There appears to be differences of opinion about how the Council should respond to the 24 October communiqué of the PSC, which expresses its intention to seek Council endorsement of its decisions should the parties fail to agree on matters outlined in the communiqué in the efined time period. While some Council members are inclined to endorse binding solutions on the parties, others believe that agreements must be reached between Sudan and South Sudan through consensual arrangements mutually agreed upon, especially with respect to Abyei. 

Some elected members have expressed concern that the recent draft resolution on UNISFA was circulated to them without sufficient time for discussion prior to its planned adoption. The draft was circulated to the wider Council on 9 November, with adoption originally planned on 13 November. The resolution was ultimately adopted on 16 November.

The US is the lead country on Sudan-South Sudan issues. 

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UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan 

Security Council Resolutions  
16 November 2012 S/RES/2075 This resolution renewed UNISFA’s mandate.
2 May 2012 S/RES/2046 This resolution was on Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Security Council Press Statement  
28 September 2012 SC/10779 This press statement welcomed the 27 September agreements between Sudan and South Sudan
Secretary-General’s Reports  
26 November 2012 S/2012/890 This was a UNISFA report.
23 November 2012 S/2012/877 This was a report on Sudan-South Sudan relations.

Useful Additional Sources

PSC/PR/2 (CCCXXXIX) (24 October 2012) is the report of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel. 

PSC/PR/COMM. (CCCXXIX) (3 August 2012) was a communiqué of the PSC on the status of negotiations between the parties.

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