December 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 November 2013
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In December, the Council expects to hold one meeting in consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues and the implementation of resolution 2046, which provided a roadmap for Sudan, South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to resolve their differences. (As outlined in an 11 November letter [S/2013/657], the Council decided that these meetings would occur once per month, rather than twice per month as done previously.) Council members are also likely to meet in consultations to discuss UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). At press time, it appeared that Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet would brief Council members in the consultations on Sudan-South Sudan and UNISFA.

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

Key Recent Developments

In spite of calls from the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) to “refrain from unilateral actions”, the Ngok-Dinka community went forward with a unilateral referendum in Abyei in late October. The referendum did not have official support from Sudan or South Sudan. While the vote was primarily symbolic and not legally binding, the Abyei Referendum High Committee, which organised the referendum, stated that 99.89 percent of the more than 63,000 voters chose for Abyei to become part of South Sudan. (The vote was open to Ngok-Dinka and other permanent residents of Abyei, although it seems that only Ngok-Dinka participated.)

The Ngok-Dinka have been frustrated that an official referendum to determine whether Abyei would join Sudan or South Sudan has not been held, as stipulated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They were further disappointed that the 21 September 2012 proposal by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) that called for an Abyei referendum in October 2013 that would have included the Ngok-Dinka and other permanent residents of Abyei failed to gain traction. (An official referendum, sanctioned by Sudan and South Sudan, has not taken place because the two sides have been unable to agree on criteria for participation. Sudan believes that the migratory Misseriya, who would likely choose for Abyei to become part of Sudan, should be allowed to vote, while South Sudan disagrees.)

The AU PSC visited Abyei on 5-6 November, meeting with representatives of the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities, as well as with UNISFA. At one point during the visit, UNISFA was forced to protect the delegation from Ngok-Dinka protestors who were throwing stones at them. The protestors’ ire was aroused when a member of the PSC delegation said that Abyei’s final status needed to be resolved by the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan. (This was a curious statement considering that the PSC had recently expressed support for the 21 September 2012 AUHIP proposal in a 26 October communiqué [PSC/PR/COMM.CDIII], as well as the fact that President Salva Kiir of South Sudan wrote a letter to the AU Commission on 9 October stating that he and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan would be unable to come up with a solution to Abyei’s final status.)

On 6 November, the PSC adopted a communiqué stating that its trip to Abyei had been “aimed at helping in the healing process for the Abyei communities”, given tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka groups there. The PSC also “reiterated its full acceptance” of the 21 September 2012 proposal of the AUHIP, while appealing to the UN Security Council to support the proposal as well [PSC/PR/BR.(CDV)].

A polio vaccination campaign to inoculate 165,000 children in rebel-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan was scheduled for 5-12 November. The campaign did not take place because Sudan and the SPLM-N were unable to agree to the terms of delivery. While Sudan initiated a unilateral cessation of hostilities between 1-12 November, the SPLM-N argued that it needed to meet with Sudan first, with AUHIP present, to discuss mutually acceptable terms for a ceasefire. It has also argued that Sudan should not be trusted to take part in the delivery of the vaccine, suggesting that UNISFA personnel do so instead.

On 11 November, Council members held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan and were briefed by Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Director of Operations, John Ging. Ladsous described tensions between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities, noting that UNISFA has been trying to establish buffer zones between the two groups. Ging spoke about the lack of progress in efforts to gain humanitarian access to rebel-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, noting that Sudan and the SPLM-N had not been able to reach agreement on the implementation of the polio vaccination campaign. He also appealed to the Security Council to take action.

On 25 November, the Council adopted resolution 2126 renewing the mandate of UNISFA until 31 May 2014.There were no substantive changes to the mission’s mandate.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Women’s rights activist Amira Osman Hamed appeared in Sudanese court on 4 November on the charge of dressing indecently or immorally. She could be sentenced to corporal punishment of up to 40 lashes if found guilty. On 6 November Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and Frances Raday, the chairperson of the Human Rights Council’s working group on the issue of discrimination against women, called for her immediate release. They also called on Sudan to review its legislation related to flogging. The experts warned that in practice women disproportionally faced this cruel punishment in violation of their human rights to dignity, privacy and equality.

Key Issues

One key issue is what role the Council can play in allaying tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka in Abyei, thus ensuring that the area does not become a flashpoint for wider conflict.

Another key issue remains the lack of humanitarian access in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, a long-standing challenge garnering significant attention recently because of the failed efforts to launch the polio vaccination campaign.

Another issue is whether Sudan and South Sudan can build on the recent upturn in relations between the two countries to address some of the difficult issues dividing them, such as the establishment of temporary administrative institutions in Abyei and the demarcation of the border.

Options

One option is for the Council to request an interactive dialogue with AUHIP Chair Thabo Mbeki on the status of negotiations between the parties and next steps; Mbeki has not briefed Council members since March.

The Council may also consider issuing a statement that:

  • welcomes recent progress in Sudan-South Sudan relations;
  • calls for debt relief for Sudan;
  • encourages international development assistance for South Sudan; and
  • urges the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya to refrain from violence.

Council Dynamics

Council members have been encouraged by the positive trend in Sudan-South Sudan relations in recent months but remain vigilant regarding the tensions in Abyei.

All Council members are frustrated that a polio vaccination campaign in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has not been conducted, especially in light of its 11 October press statement urging Sudan and the SPLM-N to overcome their differences and implement the campaign (SC/11145). Nonetheless, there are differences of perspective on the appropriate approach by the Council. The US, as the penholder on Sudan-South Sudan issues, urged the Council to pursue a strong Council product in November, given the failure of the vaccination effort. It seems that most Council members were also supportive of a Council outcome. However, Russia has been reluctant, believing that rather than further Council action, what is needed is for the parties to implement the vaccination campaign, as called for in the October press statement. Russia also appears to be critical of the SPLM-N, arguing that it is placing preconditions on the delivery of vaccination by calling for direct talks with Sudan prior to the campaign’s launch.

UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan 

Security Council Resolution
25 November 2013 S/RES/2126 This was the resolution that renewed the mandate of UNISFA
Security Council Press Statement
11 October 2013 SC/11145 This press statement urged Sudan and the SPLM-N to hold a polio vaccination campaign in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Security Council Letter
11 November 2013 S/2013/657 This was a letter which informed about the change of frequency of meetings on implementation of resolution 2046 from semi-monthly to once a month.