March 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2014
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In March, Council members are scheduled to be briefed in consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues and the quarterly report of the Secretary-General on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), released 25 February (S/2014/126). As of press time, an outcome was not anticipated.

Key Recent Developments

Tensions have eased recently between Sudan and South Sudan, starting with the meeting in Juba between Presidents Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan on 6 January. Sudan has participated in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan, including making a commitment to support the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the warring parties on 23 January and offering to participate in the monitoring and verification team to be deployed by IGAD in South Sudan. One issue that could complicate the improving relations between Sudan and South Sudan is the deployment of Ugandan troops in support of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Sudan, which is a member of the IGAD mediation team along with Ethiopia and Kenya, has stated its opposition to any foreign military intervention, while South Sudan has maintained its right as a sovereign state to accept military assistance from Uganda.

In their first talks since April 2013, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) held negotiations mediated by the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, from 13-18 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The opening statements by Yasir Arman, head of the SPLM-N delegation, and Ibrahim Ahmed Ghandour, head of the government of Sudan delegation, indicated significant divergence between the two parties. Arman called for a single forum for negotiations with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a cease-fire including not only South Kordofan and Blue Nile states but also Darfur and a national constitutional process enabling a transitional government and a democratic transformation. Ghandour emphasised that negotiations would be confined to the three issues (i.e., security, political and humanitarian) of South Kordofan and Blue Nile and that these talks should be held “concurrently and as one package”. Following several days of negotiations, Mbeki announced on 18 February that there would be a 10-day break in the talks so the parties could consult with their “principals” and further evaluate proposals offered by the AUHIP team.      

Meanwhile, conflict has continued in the border states of both countries, particularly South Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan and Unity and Upper Nile in South Sudan. On 18 February, the defence minister of Sudan, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, said: “We are keenest to resolve issues through dialogue and only dialogue, but if war is imposed upon us we would fight. We are ready to finish the summer campaign to end the rebellion.” Media reports also suggest that Sudanese Armed Forces have increased the intensity of aerial bombardment in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in recent months. Across the border in South Sudan, despite the 23 January ceasefire agreement, SPLA forces on 2 February reportedly attacked the hometown of former Vice President Riek Machar in Unity state. According to analysis of imagery by the US-based NGO Satellite Sentinel Project, more than 1,000 huts were burned down. More recently, there have been numerous clashes in Upper Nile state, including a major rebel offensive launched on the state capital, Malakal, on 18 February. 

Continued fighting in Sudan and South Sudan has had a substantial adverse impact on the cross-border humanitarian situation. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of 10 February there were nearly 25,000 refugees from South Sudan in Sudan, with the majority in White Nile state. Further complicating a complex demographic situation within the contested territory, another 2,500 to 3,000 refugees have arrived in Abyei from South Sudan. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are also more than 210,000 refugees from Sudan in South Sudan. Many of these refugees reside in camps that are becoming increasingly inaccessible to humanitarian actors due to worsening insecurity in South Sudan.           

Council members were last briefed on Sudan-South Sudan issues in consultations on 11 February, by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. Among other issues, Ladsous discussed the lack of recent progress implementing the 27 September 2012 agreements between Sudan and South Sudan. 

On 14 February, the Council issued a press statement on Sudan and South Sudan (SC/11282). Addressing a number of significant points, the statement:

  • welcomed the resumption of negotiations between the SPLM-N and the government of Sudan on 13 February;
  • welcomed improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan, including within the context of participation within the IGAD;
  • reiterated concern regarding the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states and called on all parties to refrain from attacks on civilians and to expedite the delivery of humanitarian assistance;
  • demanded the withdrawal from Abyei of forces of the SPLA and personnel of the South Sudan National Police Service and reiterated a demand for the withdrawal of Sudan’s oil police; and
  • urged resumption of the work of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee,  establishment of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ) and implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM).
Key Issues

The outcome of the AUHIP-mediated talks between Sudan and the SPLM-N is perhaps the most urgent Sudan-South Sudan issue.

There are also a number of other longer term and unresolved issues that require the sustained focus of the Council, such as creation of the SDBZ, implementation of the JBVMM, border demarcation and determining the status of Abyei. 

Options

One option would be for the Council to issue a presidential statement in support of the ongoing negotiations in Addis Ababa mediated by AUHIP (Sudan) and IGAD (South Sudan). Certain Council members with political and economic leverage may also wish to consider intensifying their bi-lateral diplomatic engagement.

An alternative option would be to take a more cautious approach in deference to the lead mediation roles assumed by regional and subregional organisations.

Council Dynamics

On the one hand, as press statements require consensus, the issuance of the 14 February statement would seem to indicate a certain degree of unity among Council members on Sudan-South Sudan issues. On the other hand, as the press statement was first put under silence on 12 February and then only agreed upon after a two-day delay—at which point the AUHIP-mediated talks had already started—there also seems to be a limit to the extent to which Council members may be able to effectively work toward assisting the resolution of Sudan-South Sudan issues. 

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 Statement
14 February 2014 SC/11282 This press statement welcomed the resumption of negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N.
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.

USEFUL ADDITIONAL RESOURCE

Forgotten Wars: Sudan’s Periphery Smolders with Focus on South Sudan, Enough Project, 30 January 2014.