August 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 August 2014
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council expects to hold its monthly consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues. It will also consider in consultations the bimonthly report of the Secretary-General (S/2014/518) on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios is likely to brief on Sudan-South Sudan issues, while a representative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief on UNISFA.

The mandate of UNISFA expires on 15 October.

Key Recent Developments

Although Sudan and South Sudan have maintained contact at various levels of government, both countries remain heavily focused on their own domestic political and security challenges. This has made it difficult for the two countries to make progress in addressing the remaining issues dividing them, including border demarcation, the determination of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) centreline, the establishment of temporary administrative institutions in Abyei and the final status of Abyei.

On 16 June, UNISFA partially reactivated the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, which had been dormant since November 2013, with air patrols of the Sudan-South Sudan border having recommenced out of Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan state in Sudan.

On 16 July, Misseriya militiamen killed five Ngok-Dinka in a cattle-raiding incident in the south of Abyei, the contested region straddling the Sudan-South Sudan border. The Misseriya militia attempted to rustle several hundred cattle, but they were largely unsuccessful due to the resistance of the local inhabitants and the intervention of UNISFA.

A memorandum of understanding regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid to South Sudan through Sudan was signed by the two countries on 8 July. The aid is expected to be distributed in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states in South Sudan, areas that are also experiencing significant food insecurity in the midst of a civil war. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted in its 7-13 July Humanitarian Bulletin that “delivery of aid through Sudan is preferred, as most of the roads connecting the…targeted states with Juba are impassable during the rainy season”.

The national dialogue process in Sudan continues to proceed haltingly. President Omar al-Bashir initiated the process earlier this year, stating that it is designed to “stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity”. The government promised to create an enabling atmosphere for the dialogue, and some opposition parties were allowed to conduct rallies unhindered by the government. However, restrictions have been placed on the press, and several opposition figures have been arrested for making comments critical of the government.

On 15 July, Saddiq Al-Mahdi, the head of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), said that the national dialogue process should be directed toward peaceful democratic transformation. He added that the process should be chaired by a neutral figure, rather than by Bashir. Al-Mahdi was arrested on 17 May after he criticised the government-affiliated Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia for attacking civilians in Darfur. Soon after his detention, the NUP withdrew from the national dialogue process, which it has not rejoined even though Al-Mahdi was released on 15 June.

The head of the opposition Sudan Congress Party, Ibrahim al-Sheik, was incarcerated on 8 June, also for criticising the activities of the RSF. Al-Sheik has refused to apologise for his remarks, which Congress Party officials believe would have paved the way for his release. He remains in jail at press time.

On 17 July, State Minister of Information Yasir Youssef said that full freedom of the press could not be allowed because “the situation in Sudan is explosive and would be uncontrollable”. In recent months, some newspapers in Sudan have reportedly been told by security forces not to report on the actions of the RSF, as well as corruption. The Al-Saiha newspaper was shut down on 17 May by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) after covering corruption cases involving government officials. It was briefly allowed to reopen in early July but closed again by the NISS on the next day.

On 10 July, Bashir convened a meeting of pro-government and opposition political parties to assess the national dialogue. During the meeting, the participants agreed to form a committee to develop a roadmap to chart the way forward that was expected to be finalised on 22 July. Although this deadline was missed, Ibrahim Gandour, an assistant to Bashir, said on 23 July that the government and the opposition parties had concurred on over 90 percent of the roadmap. Still it appears that fundamental differences of perspective remain. In particular, opposition parties espouse the creation of a national unity government and a postponement of the April 2015 elections to assess electoral laws, while the government seems unwilling to make these concessions.

The Council held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues on 16 July, with Menkerios and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos briefing. Menkerios told Council members that alongside Thabo Mbeki, head of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), he would try to urge Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to re-engage in negotiations. He also indicated that opposition parties in Sudan had requested Mbeki to help mediate the national dialogue process in Sudan and that Mbeki would be meeting with opposition politicians to discuss what role he could play. Amos said that, according to reputable sources, 170,000 people had been displaced in SPLM-N held areas of Sudan in the first half of 2014. She also noted that Sudan and South Sudan faced significant humanitarian challenges, with both countries experiencing refugee outflows and food shortages.

Key Issues

One key issue is whether and how the Council can facilitate progress between Sudan and South Sudan in addressing outstanding issues dividing them, given that they are each focused on their own internal crises.

Another key issue is how the Council chooses to approach the interconnected humanitarian crises facing both Sudan and South Sudan, especially given restrictions on access in both countries.

Also a key issue is whether the Council can formulate an effective response to the national dialogue process in Sudan, one that encourages progress but also signals concern about the shortcomings of the process.

Options

The Council could consider a resolution (or other outcome) that:

  • demands all parties in Sudan and South Sudan (i.e., the governments and rebel movements in both countries) to allow unfettered humanitarian access;
  • makes a special appeal to member states to provide funding for humanitarian operations in both countries;
  • calls on those states that have pledged their support to fulfil their commitments; and
  • welcomes the national dialogue in Sudan but expresses concern about the curtailment of press freedom and the arrests of opposition figures.

Another option is for the Council to request Mbeki to brief (possibly in an informal interactive dialogue) on the AUHIP’s recent work, including on efforts to convince Sudan and the SPLM-N to restart negotiations, and on any potential mediation role in Sudan’s national dialogue. This could also be an opportunity for the Council to learn about any steps that Sudan and South Sudan are taking to resolve their outstanding issues.

Council Dynamics

There is disappointment with the ongoing lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in implementing their agreements, although there is recognition that both countries are engrossed with their own domestic problems. While Council members view the national dialogue in Sudan as a step in the right direction, several question the government’s commitment to the process, given media restrictions and the arrest of key opposition figures. There appears to be interest among several members in learning more about Mbeki’s efforts to play a mediating role in the dialogue and to urge Sudan and the SPLM-N to return to the negotiating table.

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

 

Security Council Resolutions
29 May 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.
Secretary-General’s Report
23 July 2014 S/2014/518 This is a report on UNISFA.