Sudan and South Sudan
Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is scheduled to hold its monthly meeting on Sudan-South Sudan issues, likely in consultations. The Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and head of the UN Office to the AU, Haile Menkerios, is expected to brief. At press time, no outcome is anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
There was heightened fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan in April and May, as Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and affiliated militia stepped up attacks in rebel-held territories. In early May, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the government offensive had resulted in “a number of civilian casualties and repeated massive civilian displacement”. OCHA has reported that the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) alleges that approximately 800,000 civilians are either internally displaced or severely affected by conflict in parts of South Kordofan and Blue Nile not under government control; however, these figures have not been verified. In one widely reported incident, Sudan bombed a hospital in Gidel, South Kordofan, on 1 May, with no casualties reported.
Sudan and the SPLM-N reconvened for face-to-face negotiations in Addis Ababa on 22 April, but the talks collapsed by the end of the month, with the sides again unable to agree on a framework for negotiations. (The SPLM-N believes that its grievances should be addressed within a national context, while Sudan disagrees.) At press time,it was unclear when the parties would meet again for negotiations.
On 12 May, the ruling National Congress Party stated that the national dialogue process in Sudan would begin by the end of the May. President Omar al-Bashir stated that the process is designed to “stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity”. The National Consensus Forces, an umbrella group of opposition parties, and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, which consists of several rebel groups, have refused to join the process, arguing that it needs to result in a transitional government that will oversee a process leading to a new constitution and democratic elections.
The National Umma Party and the Popular Congress Party were the only major opposition parties that expressed willingness to participate in the national dialogue process. However, the National Umma Party suspended its involvement in the aftermath of the 17 May arrest of its leader, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, for “defamation” after he publicly accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a government-affiliated militia, of murdering and raping civilians in Darfur.
The situation in Abyei, the disputed region straddling the Sudan-South Sudan border, has remained tense. A number of violent incidents between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities have taken place so far this year. The Abyei Area Administration has still not been formed, nearly three years after it was mandated, and security forces from both Sudan and South Sudan remain in the region in violation of Security Council resolutions. The Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), meant to enable joint political and administrative oversight in Abyei, has not convened in over a year.
On 19 May, the Security Council held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan and on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Menkerios briefed on Sudan-South Sudan relations, while UNISFA Force Commander Major General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam briefed on UNISFA. Menkerios said that Sudan and South Sudan had not made progress recently in addressing the issues dividing them, while Tesfamariam described the challenges facing UNISFA in Abyei. The most recent Secretary-General’s report on Abyei (S/2014/336), noted that Ethiopian officials have indicated that Ethiopia would have to reconsider its military commitment to UNISFA if Sudan and South Sudan continue their lack of cooperation in administering the area and in establishing law and order and inter-communal mechanisms there. This would present an enormous challenge for the mission as UNISFA is almost exclusively comprised of Ethiopian troops.
At press time, the Council was expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of UNISFA for an additional four months on 29 May.
One key issue is whether and how the Council can facilitate progress between Sudan and South Sudan in addressing any of their mutual challenges (border demarcation, the centreline of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, the temporary administration of Abyei and the final status of Abyei), given the instability in both countries.
Another key issue is whether anything can be done to break the ongoing impasse in the Council regarding how to address the crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Also a key issue is how the Council chooses to approach the national dialogue process in Sudan.
One option is to listen to the briefing in consultations but take no action.
The Council might consider a visiting mission to Abyei to meet with the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities and get a better understanding of the challenges facing the region.
The annual consultative meeting between Council members and the members of the AU Peace and Security Council scheduled for 6 June might also provide an opportunity for the two Councils to send a strong political signal to Sudan and South Sudan on the need to reinvigorate the stalled negotiations on Abyei and other matters. (This could be done in the context of the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting.)
The Council might also consider hosting an Arria-formula meeting on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that includes civil society actors knowledgeable about the situation on the ground.
The Council continues to discuss Sudan-South Sudan relations once per month, yet its attention has been focused on the situation in South Sudan since the 15 December 2013 outbreak of hostilities. There are ongoing concerns in the Council about the lack of progress made by Sudan and South Sudan in resolving many of the mutual challenges facing them. Several Council members view the national dialogue process in Sudan as a step in the right direction, although some would like to see concrete progress before commending the process.
The US is the penholder on Sudan-South Sudan issues and on UNISFA.
UN Documents on Sudan and South Sudan
|Security Council Resolution|
|25 November 2013 S/RES/2126||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNISFA.|
|13 May 2014 S/2014/336||This was the Secretary General’s quarterly report on UNISFA.|