October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In October, the 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.

At press time, no outcome was anticipated on these matters.

Key Recent Developments

Presidents Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan held a summit in Khartoum on 3 September. Bashir said Sudan would allow the transport of oil from South Sudan through Sudan to continue, countermanding a threatened oil shutdown scheduled to begin on 6 September. It appears that Kiir also promised that South Sudan would not support rebels in Sudan. The presidents reiterated their commitment to implement the cooperation agreements on oil, security and economic issues that they signed on 27 September 2012. They also underscored the importance of establishing civilian institutions in Abyei and finding a final resolution to the status of the region.

Notable developments in domestic politics in both Sudan and South Sudan have occurred recently. On 1 September, the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan said that it had been holding consultations with opposition parties with the goal of forming a new, more inclusive cabinet. Nonetheless, it stressed that this should not be interpreted as meaning that it will initiate a transitional government with the aim of producing a new constitution. On 23 September, protests broke out when the Sudanese government removed fuel subsidies resulting in the death of at least 29 demonstrators. Meanwhile, in South Sudan, on 2 September the parliament approved Magok Rundial as its new speaker, replacing James Wani Igga, who became vice-president on 23 August. Media reports have indicated that Kiir threatened to dissolve the assembly if it did not endorse Igga as vice president and Rundial as speaker.

South Sudan Interior Minister Aleu Ayieny Aleu announced on 27 August that the government had determined that there were more than 11,000 ghost police in South Sudan, with salaries for these fictitious police siphoned off in a corruption scheme involving high-level police officers. Aleu suspects that further investigation could uncover an additional 16,000 fabricated police officers.

On 5 September, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues. Ladsous said that the 3 September summit was a positive development, albeit expressing concern about the tense situation in Abyei. He noted that the Ngok-Dinka community in the region had begun discussing preparations for an October referendum on the final status of Abyei (to determine whether Abyei belongs to Sudan or South Sudan), in accordance with the 21 September 2012 proposal of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). He added that South Sudan had begun releasing civil servants to return home to Abyei to participate in a referendum. (These actions have elicited strong criticism from Sudan, and the Misseriya community in South Kordofan state has threatened violence if the referendum is held under current conditions).

Abyei Area Referendum

Although Sudan and South Sudan committed to a referendum in Abyei in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Sudan continues to express reservations about eligibility criteria for voting. As a result of these reservations, a final status referendum for Abyei, scheduled concurrently with the 9-15 January 2011 referendum on independence in South Sudan, was delayed. On 21 September 2012, the AUHIP proposed that the referendum be rescheduled for October 2013, with residents of the Abyei area (including the Ngok-Dinka and other Sudanese permanently residing in Abyei) eligible to vote. (The AU Peace and Security Council called this proposal a “fair, equitable, and workable solution” in its 24 October 2012 communiqué, although it has not endorsed the proposal as a final and binding decision, while the UN Security Council has merely decided that the parties should resolve the final status of Abyei through negotiations under the auspices of the AUHIP.) Although South Sudan has accepted the proposal, Sudan refuses to do so alleging concern that the vote will exclude the migratory Misseriya community, which would likely vote for Abyei to become part of Sudan.

On 31 August, the SPLM-N announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities for one month to assist in humanitarian efforts related to flooding in Sudan, notably in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. It added that the cessation “does not include…moving targets and does not prejudice acts of self-defence”. However, Sudan dismissed the pledge as “propaganda”, arguing that the SPLM-N does not have the capacity to help flood victims.

In early September, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that Sudan had consented in principle to permit a polio vaccination campaign for children under five in areas controlled by the SPLM-N during October, after the SPLM-N retreated from its request that the vaccine be delivered from a third country such as Ethiopia or Kenya. (The vaccine would be delivered via Sudan; however, the details of the delivery—including the terms of a cessation of hostilities, the exact timing and how security will be provided—have yet to be determined.)

Sudan submitted a letter to the Security Council on 17 September in which it stated that Bashir and Kiir, inter-alia, requested “debt relief for the Sudan and support for the development in South Sudan,…and…[lifting of] unilateral economic sanctions against the Sudan” (S/2013/560).

On 18 September, Haile Menkerios, briefed Council members in consultations in his capacity as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan. He noted that relations between the two countries had improved in recent weeks but expressed concern at the rising tensions in Abyei.

The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met at the level of heads of state and government in New York on 23 September and adopted a communiqué [PSC/AHG/COMM/2.(CCCXCVII)] on the situation between Sudan and South Sudan. In the communiqué, the PSC inter-alia:

  • reiterated its acceptance of the AUHIP’s 21 September 2012 proposal on Abyei;
  • reiterated its belief that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and that “there is no alternative to…[Sudan and the SPLM-N] engaging in direct negotiations towards a political settlement…;”
  • extended the mandate of the AUHIP until December 2014; and
  • expanded the AUHIP’s responsibilities to include the Horn of Africa.

At press time, the Sudan/South Sudan Consultative Forum was expected to hold a ministerial-level meeting on 27 September on the margins of the General Assembly. It seems that the meeting will focus largely on efforts to implement the 27 September 2012 cooperation agreements.

Key Issues

One key issue for the Council is what role it can play in quelling the heightened tensions between the Misseriya and the Ngok-Dinka communities in the Abyei area and in exerting influence on Sudan and South Sudan to play a constructive role in this situation.

Another key issue is how to support the recent thaw in relations between Sudan and South Sudan that seems to have developed since the 3 September summit and assist the two countries in implementing the cooperation agreements of 27 September 2012.

An additional important issue is whether the Council can use its leverage to promote direct talks and a ceasefire between Sudan and the SPLM-N. A related issue is whether Sudan and the SPLM-N can reach agreement about the delivery of the polio vaccine and how negotiations on this matter can be facilitated.


The Council may consider adopting a statement that:

  • welcomes recent progress in Sudan-South Sudan relations;
  • calls for debt relief for Sudan and a lifting of economic sanctions against it;
  • urges Sudan and the SPLM-N to successfully conduct the polio vaccination campaign for children in SPLM-N controlled areas;
  • encourages international development assistance for South Sudan; and
  • urges the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya to refrain from violence.

Another option the Council might consider is holding an Arria formula meeting on Abyei with the participation of leaders of the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities (via videoconference, if required) to learn more about the situation on the ground and to hear their perspectives on final status discussions.

Council Dynamics

Council members are generally encouraged by the improvement in relations between Sudan and South Sudan in recent weeks. There is hope that the parties can build on this positive momentum and continue to make progress in implementing the cooperation agreements of 27 September 2012.

Some members—including Azerbaijan, Pakistan and others—believe that encouraging debt relief for Sudan and the removal of economic sanctions would provide incentives for Bashir to pursue constructive negotiations with South Sudan. Others appear less amenable to endorsing the removal of economic sanctions.

The most immediate concern among Council members is the potential for violence in Abyei, given reports that some members of the Ngok-Dinka community have been planning a unilateral referendum in the area. Council members have been divided on the issue of the Abyei referendum for quite some time. A growing number of Council members believe that holding a referendum without buy-in from Sudan would be a futile exercise whose results would exacerbate the situation on the ground. However, other members note that Sudan, as a party to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, committed itself eight years ago to hold a referendum on Abyei.

The US is the penholder on Sudan/South Sudan issues.

UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan

Security Council Presidential Statement
23 August 2013 S/PRST/2013/14 The Council expressed concern about the challenges facing implementation of the 27 September 2012 agreements.
Security Council Letters
17 September 2013 S/2013/560 This was a letter from Sudan containing a brief report on the steps that Sudan and South Sudan had taken since the 3 September summit to enhance cooperation between the two countries.
3 September 2013 S/2013/528 This was a letter from Sudan containing the communique of the 3 September summit.