August 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 August 2013
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In August, the Security Council expects to hold two meetings, likely in consultations, on compliance by Sudan, South Sudan, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) with resolution 2046. The Council also expects to discuss in consultations the most recent report of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), whose mandate expires on 30 November. Ambassador María Cristina Perceval (Argentina), chair of the Sudan 1591 Sanctions Committee, will also provide the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work to Council members in consultations.

At press time, no Council outcome on these issues was anticipated.

Key Recent Developments

Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have remained tense. From 30 June to 2 July, then Vice-President Riek Machar of South Sudan met with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and other high-level officials in Khartoum in an effort to ease bilateral tensions. Sudan and South Sudan issued a joint statement at the conclusion of the meetings in which they agreed to promote peace and stability between them (S/2013/391). In spite of this diplomatic activity, Sudan continued to reiterate for several weeks its threat to shut down the flow of oil from South Sudan no later than 60 days after 9 June, accusing South Sudan of supporting rebels in Sudan.  

However, on 26 July, Sudan announced that it would delay its closure of pipelines an additional two weeks until 22 August. (This decision followed meetings that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan held on 25 July with Thabo Mbeki, Chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, as well as with Zhong Jianhua, China’s Special Representative on African Affairs.)

On 3 July, South Sudan claimed that Sudan had conducted an aerial bombardment the day before on its territory in the town of Jau, Unity State, injuring at least six people. South Sudan also alleged that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) conducted a second assault on Jau, but it did not provide precise casualty figures. It further claimed that the SAF crossed the border into Upper Nile State, injuring four civilians and four South Sudanese troops.     

Sudan postponed its participation in the meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM)—the instrument employed by Sudan and South Sudan to discuss security matters of mutual concern—that had been scheduled for 22 July in Addis Ababa, claiming that the agenda for the meeting was not clear and that some action points had yet to be finalised. (It appears that this meeting was intended to focus on issues related to border monitoring between Sudan and South Sudan and mutual accusations of support for rebel groups operating in each other’s territory.)

On 22 July, the AU issued a press release that built upon two proposals made last month by Mbeki. First, the press release stated that the AU Commission and Ethiopia, as chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, had initiated a six-week investigation to research the mutual allegations of “continued support to and harbouring of armed groups operating against the other state”. Second, according to the press release, the AU Border Programme had been assigned to determine the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) between Sudan and South Sudan, although a time frame for completing this task was not specified. 

The political and security situation in both Sudan and South Sudan has been volatile.  On 24 July, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group launched an assault on the SAF near the town of Jebel al-Dayer in North Kordofan state, marking the second time since April that the JEM has struck in this state. Sudan claimed that five SAF soldiers died in the attack and that the rebels absorbed heavy casualties. Fighting also continued in Darfur, where seven UN peacekeepers were killed and 17 were wounded on 13 July. The security situation in Jonglei State, South Sudan, remained perilous, where violence broke out in early July between the Lou-Nuer and Murle groups. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on 17 July that the fighting had “resulted in hundreds of severe casualties”.

The Government of Sudan prevented the opposition National Consensus Forces from attending a meeting in Geneva arranged by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue from 15-17 July with the Sudan Revolutionary Front—the umbrella rebel group that includes the JEM, the SPLM-N, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, quoted in The Sudan Tribune, said that the meeting was designed to “search for a peaceful resolution to Sudan’s conflict, particularly the building of a national dialogue process”.     

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir dissolved the government on 23 July, dismissing Vice-President Machar as well as all ministers and deputy ministers, apparently due to a power struggle within the ruling party. 

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members on Sudan/South Sudan issues on 11 July. He told Council members that UNISFA’s aerial reconnaissance as part of the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which was stopped after the JBVMM headquarters was shelled on 14 June, remained suspended for security reasons. He also noted that the additional troops that the Council authorised to provide protection to monitors and support staff of the JBVMM had yet to be deployed. (JBVMM monitors and support staff will assume their responsibilities when force protection is provided to them.) Moreover, according to Ladsous, there had been no progress by the parties in establishing the temporary administrative bodies—i.e., the Abyei Area Administration, the Abyei Legislative Council and the Abyei Police Service—in the disputed Abyei region straddling Sudan and South Sudan.

The Council again held consultations on Sudan/South Sudan matters on 24 July. Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, briefed. He indicated that UNISFA had recommenced some aerial reconnaissance along the Sudan-South Sudan border, while also reporting that forces from Sudan and South Sudan had recently been detected in the SDBZ along the Sudan-South Sudan border.  

Key Issues

A key issue is what role the Council can play in getting Sudan and South Sudan back on track in fulfilling the Cooperation Agreements (on oil sharing, cross-border trade, security arrangements, nationality issues and other matters) that they signed in September 2012.   

In this respect, a related issue is whether Sudan will wait until the AU Commission-Ethiopian investigation of allegations of support to rebel groups by the parties is completed before making a final determination on whether to prevent oil from South Sudan going through Sudan. (As mentioned earlier, Sudan has threatened to shut down the flow of oil from South Sudan by 22 August, but the investigation will only be completed by early September.) 

An additional key issue is how internal challenges in Sudan and South Sudan impact the ability of both governments to focus constructively on improving their relations with one another.   

Another important issue is when UNISFA can fully implement the JBVMM, given the instability in border areas.  The additional UNISFA troops, authorised by the Security Council in resolution 2104 of 29 May to provide protection for monitors and support staff, have yet to be deployed.  This is important as the monitors and support staff will not be stationed along the border until force protection is available.

A further important issue for the Council is what efforts have been taken to quell tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities in Abyei in the aftermath of the death of the Ngok-Dinka paramount chief at the hands of the Misseriya in early May.  

An ongoing key issue is the failure by the parties to set up the temporary administrative institutions in Abyei.

Another ongoing issue is the continuing stalemate regarding Council efforts to improve humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.


Related to UNISFA, options for the Council include:

  • requesting a briefing from the UNISFA Force Commander on the current situation on the ground;
  • holding an Arria formula meeting with high-level Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya leaders on how to promote reconciliation between the two groups;  and
  • adopting a statement reiterating the importance of establishing the temporary administrative institutions in Abyei.  

On Sudan-South Sudan issues more generally, the Council may consider adopting a statement that:

  • encourages the two parties to implement the Cooperation Agreements and discourages Sudan from shutting down the oil pipelines from South Sudan; and
  • implores the parties to continue to engage in dialogue with one another and recognises recent efforts made in this regard (e.g., Machar’s visit to Sudan).

Another option would be to employ the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa as a mechanism to discuss strategies for easing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan.  

Council Dynamics

There is a growing sense among some Council members that they need to find a more strategic approach to Sudan-South Sudan issues. It appears that the twice-monthly Council meetings will continue in August, although several members question the usefulness of their frequency. It seems that they believe that often not enough happens every two weeks to justify a meeting, and the Council becomes mired in non-essential details rather than seeing the big picture. There is tangible frustration among some members that the divisions within the Council on numerous Sudan-South Sudan issues have inhibited its effectiveness, making it difficult for the Council to be proactive on these issues.

During the UK presidency in June, there had been consideration of a potential ambassador-level meeting of all Council members to explore how the Council might adjust its approach to Sudan-South Sudan issues. However, it does not seem that this meeting took place, and it is unclear if and when such a discussion will be held.   

There is widespread concern that relations between the two countries are once again deteriorating. Perhaps the most prevalent preoccupation among members at the current time is Sudan’s threat to shut down oil delivery from South Sudan, given how vital oil is to the economies of both countries, but particularly South Sudan. 

The US is the penholder on UNISFA and other Sudan-South Sudan issues, while Argentina is the chair of Sudan 1591 Sanctions Committee. 

UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan

Security Council Resolutions
29 May 2013 S/RES/2104 This resolution extended UNISFA’s mandate until 30 November 2013 and authorised a troop ceiling of 5,326 troops.
14 February 2013 S/RES/2091 This resolution extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until 17 February 2014.
2 May 2012 S/RES/2046 This resolution was on Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Secretary-General’s Report
29 July 2013 S/2013/450 This was a report on UNISFA.
Security Council Letters
9 July 2013 S/2013/405 This contained a letter from Bashir to Mbeki suggesting that the shutdown of oil would not be necessary if South Sudan ceased support for rebels in Sudan.
2 July 2013 S/2013/391 This was a letter from Sudan containing the joint statement made by the parties regarding Machar’s visit to Sudan.