January 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 21 December 2012
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In January, the Council will likely meet twice to discuss Sudan/South Sudan issues in accordance with resolution 2046. At press time, it was unclear whether there would be an outcome from these deliberations.

Key Recent Developments

On 6 December, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed the Council in consultations on the situation in the disputed Abyei area and on other Sudan/South Sudan issues. Noting that the situation in Abyei was generally calm, he said that the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was creating buffer zones so that the nomadic Misseriya would not enter areas inhabited by the Ngok Dinka and engaging in discussions with leaders from both communities to mitigate the potential for violence. (The Misseriya are generally aligned with Sudan, while the Ngok Dinka are generally more supportive of South Sudan.)  Mulet also noted that while the parties had not implemented the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), UNISFA was training the monitors that Sudan and South Sudan had provided for the JBVMM in Assossa, Ethiopia. (UNISFA is mandated to provide operational support for the JBVMM.)

Regarding other Sudan/South Sudan issues, Mulet said that while it was encouraging that the parties were negotiating, he was unable to report any developments on the implementation of the 27 September agreements on security, oil wealth-sharing, cross-border trade and other issues.  With respect to the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) is fighting the government in Khartoum—Mulet said that the situation had not improved. He underscored the need for direct negotiations between the government and the SPLM-N. 

On 7 December, four Darfuri students at Al-Gazira University south of Khartoum were found dead in a canal. They had participated in a protest demanding tuition exemptions that security forces had broken up. Several days of protests ensued in Khartoum in response to the deaths, including one on 10 December that reportedly included the participation of approximately 600 students at Al-Neelain University. The government alleges that the four students drowned.   

Sudan and South Sudan, including respective Defence Ministers Abdel-Rahim Hussein and John Kong Nyuon, met in Khartoum in early December. The parties discussed plans to resume the production of oil in South Sudan, which reaches the outside world through pipelines in Sudan. However, after weeklong discussions, the parties decided that before the export of oil through Sudan could recommence, they needed to agree first on a plan to withdraw their military forces from their mutual border.  Unable to resolve this security measure, the talks ended on 10 December.

The two parties reconvened in Addis Ababa on 16 December with Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), mediating. On 18 December, Mbeki reported that the parties had taken measures to establish border security mechanisms.  At press time, it seemed that the parties had established a technical committee to implement the JBVMM and the SDBZ; however, it appeared that activation would occur only after President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan engaged in direct talks at a meeting, anticipated to take place during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2013. 

Sudan and South Sudan have been engaged in bilateral meetings with officials from other governments to discuss their perspectives on the future of Abyei. On 12 December, in a meeting in Khartoum with Ambassador to Sudan Luo Xiaoguang (China), Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti reportedly said that Sudan opposes the AUHIP proposal of 21 September calling for a referendum to resolve the status of Abyei.  It also seems that Karti indicated in the meeting that Sudan would not accept a decision imposed on it by an international body. (In its communiqué of 24 October, the AU Peace and Security Council [PSC] requested that the parties resolve the status of Abyei within six weeks, using the proposal for a referendum in Abyei as a basis for discussion.  If the parties did not reach an agreement in six weeks, the PSC indicated that it would “endorse the…proposal as final and binding, and…seek the endorsement by the UN Security Council of the same.” The six-week deadline for discussions on the proposal expired on 5 December without negotiations taking place between the parties on the issue.)      

Officials from South Sudan met with Russian officials in Moscow in early December.  “We would like the Russian government to play a positive role in current discussions”, said Luka Biong Deng, a member of the delegation, as quoted in the Sudan Tribune on 7 December. Russian Africa Envoy Mikhail Margelov has reportedly visited Khartoum several times recently to discuss the situation in Abyei. 

The PSC adopted a communiqué on 14 December in which it, inter alia:

  • noted its concern that Sudan and South Sudan have not implemented the 27 September agreements;
  • reiterated acceptance of the 21 September AUHIP proposal to resolve the status of Abyei;
  • noted that the 5 December deadline for the parties to negotiate the status of Abyei, using the PSC proposal as the basis for negotiations, had expired without negotiations taking place;
  • referred the matter to its January 2013 summit meeting in Addis Ababa;
  • encouraged the holding of a summit between the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan in “the shortest possible time” to resolve pending issues;
  • reiterated that Sudan and the SPLM-N should engage in direct dialogue on political matters with the facilitation of AUHIP; and
  • requested a final report from AUHIP on the unresolved issues between the parties that had been outlined in the 24 April communiqué and road map of the PSC.   

On 18 December, the Council was briefed on Sudan/South Sudan issues by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan Haile Menkerios (via VTC) and Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet. Menkerios noted that there was a good chance that Presidents Bashir and Kiir would meet in the near future to discuss outstanding matters. He further noted that it appeared that the parties were making progress in their negotiations on the implementation of the JBVMM and SDBZ. It seems that Mulet spoke about the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  

Human Rights-Related Developments

During a press briefing in Geneva on 11 December, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), expressed concern about a number of attacks on human rights defenders in recent months in South Sudan and the killing of a journalist, Diing Chan Awol, on 5 December. Colville welcomed South Sudan’s request for a thorough investigation of the murder and urged the government to send a strong signal of its readiness to protect the safety of journalists and human rights defenders. The High Commissioner’s office was also deeply concerned about the killing of ten people in Wau, in Western Bahr al Ghazal State, when the South Sudan army allegedly fired at protestors on 8-9 December. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a press statement on 13 December saying that the mission is investigating the use of force and other reports of violence in order to establish the facts behind the Wau incident. UNMISS also called on the authorities to seek accountability if disproportionate force was used during demonstrations.

Key Issues

One key issue is how the Council can facilitate the implementation of the 27 September agreements between Sudan and South Sudan. 

A related issue for the Council is what approach the Council can take in supporting the implementation of the JBVMM and the SDBZ. 

Another key issue is how the Council decides to approach the impasse over the status of Abyei. (South Sudan has expressed its willingness to accept the 21 September AUHIP proposal calling for a referendum in Abyei, but Sudan rejects this proposal.)

An ongoing important issue for the Council is how to address the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-N and the related humanitarian crisis in these two states.  

A related issue for the Council is the refugee crisis that has been precipitated by the violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  (More than 200,000 people from these regions have crossed the border into South Sudan and Ethiopia.) 

Options

Options for the Council include:

  • holding an informal interactive dialogue with AUHIP chair Thabo Mbeki to get his perspective of the status of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan;
  • requesting a briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the challenges facing refugees who have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states;
  • adopting a statement that reiterates the need for the parties to continue to engage in constructive negotiations and encourages the convening of a meeting between Bashir and Kiir; or
  • awaiting the PSC’s response to the AUHIP’s final report to the PSC, expected in January 2013, before making any significant decisions.
Council Dynamics

Council members remain concerned at the lack of progress made by the parties in implementing the 27 September agreements, although at press time it appeared that negotiations on the implementation of the JBVMM and the SDBZ had made some progress. 

One key area of disagreement appears to be how to approach the final status of Abyei.  It seems some members would be willing to endorse a PSC decision about a referendum in Abyei, if the PSC were to follow through on its stated intention in its 24 October communiqué to ask the Council to do so.  Other members appear to believe that such an endorsement would be tantamount to imposing a decision on Sudan.  At least one Council member also seems to hold the perspective that it is legally untenable for the Council to endorse a decision made by a regional organisation regarding international borders. (It should nonetheless be noted that Sudan and South Sudan agreed to conduct a referendum to determine the final status of Abyei in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. However, the referendum, which had been scheduled for January 2011, was never conducted because the parties could not agree on voter eligibility.)

There is a widespread sense in the Council about the urgency for hostilities between Sudan and the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to cease and for the parties to engage in direct political negotiations. Although all members are concerned with the humanitarian crisis in these two areas, differences of opinion on the conflict nonetheless persist.  Some members are highly critical of Khartoum for its heavy-handed military campaign and for not allowing humanitarian access to civilians in these two areas. (Media outlets and non-governmental organisations have referred to indiscriminate aerial bombardment, looting, rape and other human rights violations on the part of Sudan.) Other Council members appear to be less critical of Khartoum for its actions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, noting that Sudan is a sovereign country that must defend itself from a rebel group that has vowed to overthrow the regime.

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

UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan

Security Council Resolutions  
2 May 2012 S/RES/2046 This resolution was on Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Security Council Press Statements  
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/2012/877 This was a report on Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Useful Additional Sources

PSC/PR/COMM (CCCXLIX) (14 December 2012) is the communiqué of the PSC that notes concern with the lack of implementation of the 27 September agreements.  

PSC/MIN/COMM/1 (CCCXXXIX) (24 October 2012) is the communiqué of the PSC responding to the AUHIP report.

PSC/PR/2 (CCCXXXIX) (24 October 2012) is the AUHIP report.

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