February 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2014
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council is scheduled to hold one meeting, likely in consultations, on Sudan-South Sudan issues. Haile Menkerios, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan and head of the UN Office to the AU, is expected to brief during the meeting by videoconferencing. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.

Key Recent Developments

Heavy fighting continued in South Sudan throughout much of January between government and opposition forces, including in areas near the border with Sudan in oil-producing Unity and Upper Nile states. In addition to the large number of civilian casualties caused by the fighting, oil facilities were reportedly damaged, and the flow of oil to Sudan was disrupted, although reports vary regarding the level of disruption. A cessation of hostilities, brokered by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), was signed by the parties on 23 January, although there were reports of sporadic fighting in both Unity and Upper Nile in the ensuing days.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan met with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan in Juba on 6 January. Media reports initially suggested that Bashir and Kiir were negotiating the creation of a joint force to defend oil fields in South Sudan near the border with Sudan from the rebels, but these reports were subsequently dismissed by the parties. Sudan and South Sudan have stated that the meeting focused on efforts by both countries to implement the cooperation agreements signed on 27 September 2012. (These agreements dealt with oil-sharing, cross-border trade, border security, nationality issues and other matters.) During a press conference at the summit, Kiir and Bashir reiterated their pledge not to support rebels operating on either side of the border.

Following the summit, Bashir indicated that Sudan would allow refugees fleeing the fighting in South Sudan to enter Sudan in accordance with the “four freedoms” agreement of 27 September 2012 which gives nationals of either country the right to live, work, travel and own property in the other. However, he said that Sudan would not build refugee camps for the new arrivals.

Sudan said on 11 January that it had repelled forces opposed to Kiir that had crossed the border into Sudan near Heglig. It reportedly disarmed 54 fighters. The remainder refused to be disarmed and retreated back into South Sudan.

On 14 January, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that approximately 78,000 refugees had left South Sudan since the crisis broke out on 15 December. According to UNHCR, over half of these have gone to Uganda (42,654), with the remainder fleeing to Ethiopia (18,616), Kenya (6,778) and Sudan (10,000). Regarding the refugees fleeing into Sudan, UNHCR has said that most are nomadic and that lack of access makes it hard to provide precise figures. Sudan challenged UNHCR, claiming that only 1,371 refugees had entered its territory. Some humanitarian assistance is being provided to these refugees through local actors working with UNHCR, the World Food Program and other entities.

Bashir announced on 25 December 2013, that in 2014 Sudan would defeat the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of major rebel groups in Sudan. (On 11 November 2013, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein made a similar claim, alleging that the rebels would be defeated by the end of 2013.) Bashir also boasted that after the current military operation in Darfur is completed, another one will follow.

Meanwhile, fighting between government forces and rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in Sudan continues to be reported, with both sides issuing contradictory statements about their successes that are difficult to verify. On 6 January, fighting was reported between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur-based rebel group, and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the Trogi area of South Kordofan. The JEM claimed it won the battle, inflicting dozens of casualties on the SAF, while Sudan alleged that it had defeated and repelled the rebels. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N) alleged that it killed more than 70 SAF troops and took military equipment, including two tanks, during an attack on a military convoy on 17 January in the Malkan area of Blue Nile. Sudan claimed that it won the battle in Malkan and took control of the area several days prior to the alleged rebel attack.

On 9 January, Council members held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues during which they were briefed by Menkerios. (Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, briefed members on the situation in South Sudan during the same session.) Menkerios said that it would be difficult for Sudan and South Sudan to make progress on pending issues between them, including determining the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), while South Sudan is in conflict. Menkerios added that there had been no progress regarding efforts to gain humanitarian access to Blue Nile and South Kordofan. He noted that negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N on the polio vaccination campaign for children in areas held by the SPLM-N never materialised. The campaign, which has not occurred, was originally planned to commence on 5 November 2013 and last for two weeks.

Key Issues

One key issue is what impact the fighting in South Sudan will have on its relations with Sudan moving forward, especially given the vital importance of oil to the economies of both countries and the influx of refugees from South Sudan into Sudan.

Another important issue is whether any progress can be made on unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan while the latter is mired in conflict. These unresolved issues include the creation of the SDBZ, the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, the establishment of temporary administrative institutions in Abyei, the final status of Abyei and border demarcation.

Also a key issue is the ongoing lack of humanitarian access in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where civilians continue to be displaced by the ongoing fighting.

Options

One option is for the Council to organise an informal interactive dialogue with Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AU High-level Implementation Panel, to get an assessment of the status of relations between Sudan and South Sudan and the negotiations between them, in light of the recent turmoil in South Sudan.

Another option is to adopt a statement that:

  • commends recent cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan;
  • reiterates the view, expressed in its 10 January press statement, that external intervention in South Sudan could worsen the political and military situation (SC/11244); and
  • urges the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N to reengage in negotiations on humanitarian access in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Council Dynamics

Since 15 December 2013 the conflict in South Sudan has limited Council attention to Sudan-South Sudan relations. The 9 January Council consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues were viewed largely in the context of what impact events in South Sudan are having on Sudan. Nonetheless, some members are keen to ensure that while the Council remains focused on South Sudan, it does not lose sight of the intractable issues related to Sudan-South Sudan relations and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

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

UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan

Security Council Resolution
2 May 2012 S/RES/2046 This resolution was on Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Security Council Press Statements
10 January 2014 SC/11244 This press statement was on the situation in South Sudan and that external intervention in South Sudan could worsen the political and military situation.
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.