Sudan and South Sudan
Expected Council Action
In July, 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 was anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
The domestic turmoil in Sudan and South Sudan, respectively, have made it difficult for the two countries to make progress in addressing the remaining issues dividing them, including border demarcation, the final status of Abyei and the establishment of a Safe Demilitarised Border Zone, among other matters.
In Sudan, fighting has continued in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. On 6 June, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) took control of the Al-Atmur area, a rebel stronghold only 30 miles from Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. On 10 June, rebels with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) launched an assault on SAF troops that had seized Al-Atmur. In repelling the attack, Sudan alleges that it killed 110 rebels, whereas the SPLM/A-N claims it suffered only three casualties. There also continued to be reports of SAF aerial bombardments of civilian targets, including, most notably, on 16 June in the town of Farandalla, where a hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was partially destroyed. In a 17 June press release, MSF noted that “several other medical facilities in South Kordofan have been bombed in recent weeks”. In a 10 June press release, 45 humanitarian organisations said that more than 100,000 people were displaced in April and May, primarily in South Kordofan, citing reports of looting, arson and destruction of food supplies in territories formerly held by rebel forces.
The arrests of two key opposition figures appeared to be a setback for the national dialogue process in Sudan. On 17 May, Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the National Umma Party, was arrested for defamation after accusing the government-affiliated militia, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), of murdering and raping civilians in Darfur. Citing the arrest and infringements on press freedoms, the National Umma Party, one of the leading opposition parties in Sudan, and the Reform Now Party (RNP) withdrew from the national dialogue process. Although Al-Mahdi was released on 15 June, it remained unclear whether these two political parties would re-engage in the process. On 8 June, Ibrahim al-Sheikh, head of the Congress Party, was arrested for remarks critical of the government and of its management of the Darfur situation. At press time, he remained incarcerated.
In South Sudan, the dire political and humanitarian crisis continues to cause misery. In addition to the thousands that have perished in the civil war that erupted on 15 December 2013, 1.4 million people are now displaced and approximately 4 million people (more than one-third of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, with aid agencies warning of a possible famine later this year. Meanwhile, negotiations between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition have stalemated, with the opposition boycotting the talks on 20 June, after complaining about the process by which civil society was selected for participation. At press time, it was unclear when this stalemate would be broken and the parties would reengage in negotiations.
The Council held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues on 10 June. Menkerios stated that Sudan and South Sudan had made no progress in addressing the political and security issues that continue to divide them. As in prior consultations, he reiterated that the national dialogue in Sudan is a positive development, while suggesting that the recent arrests of key opposition figures and restrictions on the press are counterproductive. Menkerios also spoke about recent SAF bombardments of civilian areas in South Kordofan.
On 29 May, the Council adopted resolution 2156, renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 October. While the resolution leaves the fundamental mandate of the mission unchanged, it expresses concern over the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in honouring security and political commitments regarding Abyei and the border areas more generally. Along these lines, it notes the stalled efforts by Sudan and South Sudan to demilitarise the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) and to make operational the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM). The resolution reiterates previous demands that Sudan remove its police around the Diffra oil field and that South Sudan fully remove its security personnel from Abyei. It further urges that a peace conference be organised between leaders from the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka groups, which have clashed in Abyei in recent years.
On 17 June, the JBVMM, which had been dormant since November 2013, was partially reactivated, with air patrols of the border recommencing out of Kadugli. At press time, ground patrols had yet to recommence.
Given the internal challenges facing both Sudan and South Sudan, a key ongoing issue is whether and how the Council can facilitate progress between the two countries in addressing the outstanding matters (e.g., the determination of the SDBZ centreline, border demarcation, the establishment of temporary administrative bodies in Abyei and the final status of Abyei).
Another key issue is how the Council decides to approach the national dialogue process in Sudan, which President Omar al-Bashir has stated is designed to “stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity”.
Also an important issue is the impact that SAF military campaigns in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are having on civilians, particularly in South Kordofan.
A related issue is what can be done to get the peace talks between Sudan and the SPLM-N back on track, as the parties have not met since late April.
The Council may choose to issue a statement that:
- welcomes the national dialogue but expresses concern about the curtailment of press freedom and the arrests of opposition figures in Sudan;
- encourages Sudan and the SPLM-N to reengage in negotiations on humanitarian and political issues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile; and
- deplores recent SAF ground and aerial attacks on civilian targets in South Kordofan.
Another option is for the Council to call for a commission of inquiry to investigate accusations of aerial bombardments and ground attacks on civilian targets in South Kordofan. If political differences in the Council result in a stalemate on this front, individual members could recommend this option to the Secretary-General on a bilateral basis.
Council members could also decide to hold an Arria-formula meeting on South Kordofan and Blue Nile open to all interested UN member states. Such a format would enable member states to learn about recent developments in the two areas from civil society groups and other experts and raise awareness about the political and humanitarian crisis there.
As has been the case for the last three years, the Council continues to be unable to formulate a strategy to alleviate the suffering of civilian populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile because of political differences among its members. The US and others are appalled by recent reports of aerial bombardments of civilian targets, including hospitals and schools. On the other hand, China and Russia have traditionally asserted Sudan’s sovereign right to fight rebel groups on its territory, and Russia apparently questioned the veracity of the accusations that Sudan is deliberately targeting civilians in consultations on 10 June.
While Council members have viewed the national dialogue in Sudan as a step in the right direction, some have been more cautious in their support than others, preferring to see concrete steps before commending the process. The recent arrests of al-Mahdi and al-Sheikh led some Council members to call into question the government’s commitment to political inclusiveness and dialogue.
The US is the penholder on Sudan-South Sudan issues.
UN Documents on Sudan-South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 June 2014 S/RES/2156||This renewed the mandate of UNISFA until 15 October.|
|2 May 2012 S/RES/2046||This resolution was on Sudan-South Sudan relations and provided a roadmap for Sudan, South Sudan and the SPLM-N to resolve outstanding issues and threatened Article 41 measures.|
|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.|