September 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 August 2014
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In September, the Council expects to hold an informal interactive dialogue on Sudan-South Sudan issues with Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel. (The informal interactive dialogues are off-the-record meetings presided by the Council President affording members’ interaction with high level officials involved in diplomacy regarding situation specific issues on Council’s agenda. Meetings are held in a meeting room other than the Council Chamber or Consultations Room and participation is limited to Council members.)

At press time, no Council outcome was anticipated in September.

Key Recent Developments

Progress continues to remain elusive on implementation of several elements of the 27 September 2012 agreements between Sudan and South Sudan regarding oil-sharing, cross-border trade, border security, nationality issues and other matters. The Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border is barely operational. The centre-line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), intended to be a buffer zone between the two countries, has not been determined, leaving the boundaries of the SDBZ undefined and delaying overall border demarcation. Temporary administrative units in the disputed Abyei region, straddling Sudan and South Sudan, have also still not been established, and security forces from both sides remain in or enter the region in breach of Security Council resolutions. 

The national dialogue process in Sudan continues to experience setbacks. Concerns continue to be raised among opposition parties, as well as international actors, that government repression has created a climate that is not conducive for constructive dialogue. 

On 7-8 August, members of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) and the rebel alliance Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) met in Paris to discuss their concerns about the national dialogue. (Both the NUP and the SRF are not participating in the process because of their doubts about the government’s intention to initiate meaningful reform.) On 8 August, they signed a statement known as the “Paris Declaration”, calling for genuine political reform and an end to the various conflicts. The statement also asserts that the conditions for national dialogue currently do not exist in Sudan, primarily a reference to the continued detention of political prisoners.  

Maryam El-Sadig, a key NUP figure and the daughter of NUP party leader Saddiq al-Mahdi, was arrested in Khartoum on 11 August following her return from the meeting in Paris. Another major opposition figure, Sudanese Congress Party leader Ibrahim al-Sheik, who was arrested on 8 June after criticising the management of the Darfur conflict, also remains in jail. 

Mashood Baderin, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, called for the release of El-Sadig, al-Sheik and other political prisoners in Sudan on 15 August. He emphasised that “it is imperative to ensure the guarantee of fundamental civil liberties and freedom of all political leaders to encourage confidence in the proposed national dialogue.”  

On 16 August, a committee consisting of pro-government and opposition parties that have agreed to participate in the national dialogue presented a roadmap for the process. According to the roadmap, there will be a national dialogue conference in which participants will strive to arrive at decisions by consensus. On issues where there is strong disagreement, a vote can be taken but a measure must achieve at least 90 percent support to be approved. The AU and the Arab League will be allowed to observe the conference, which President Omar al-Bashir is expected to chair.

In mid-August, the AU established a committee, chaired by Mbeki, to help support the national dialogue. Mbeki reportedly called on Sudan to release political prisoners in a 17 August meeting with Hassan al-Turabi, head of the Popular Congress Party, which is participating in the national dialogue.

The Council held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues and the situation in Abyei on 20 August, with Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Haile Menkerios, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan,  briefing. Mulet gave an overview of the Secretary-General’s 23 July report on Abyei (S/2014/518), which stated that “the situation in Abyei during the period under review [14 May to 23 July] was relatively calm, although the underlying conditions remained volatile and unpredictable”. Menkerios reported that progress had not been made in implementing the 27 September 2012 agreements.  

Key Issues

A key issue is whether Sudan and South Sudan can demonstrate the political will and energy to negotiate a resolution to the outstanding issues dividing them, while both countries are mired in their own domestic crises.

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.

Another important issue is how to encourage Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to engage in serious negotiations. (At press time, Mbeki was trying to reconvene the parties for direct talks.)

Options

Hearing from Mbeki about his mediation role with respect to Sudan-South Sudan negotiations, Sudan-SPLM-N talks and the national dialogue process in Sudan will be much welcome and may prompt the Council to consider adopting a presidential statement that:

  • encourages the national dialogue in Sudan but expresses concern about the curtailment of press freedom and the arrests of opposition figures;
  • urges Sudan and the SPLM-N to reengage in serious negotiations; and
  • urges Sudan and South Sudan to take measures to diffuse the potential for conflict in Abyei, including by redeploying their security forces away from the region and reactivating the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, which is meant to enable joint political and administrative oversight in Abyei but has not convened in well over a year.
Council Dynamics

There is recognition among several Council members that it will be challenging for Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their outstanding issues, given that both countries are mired in their own civil wars. While Council members view the national dialogue process in Sudan as a step in the right direction, several question the government’s commitment to the process, especially given the arrest of key opposition figures. In general, some members tend to be highly critical of Sudan’s human rights record, while others who are more favourably disposed toward the regime continue to argue for debt relief and a removal of economic sanctions.

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

 UN Document on Sudan and South Sudan   

Secretary-General’s Report
23 July 2014 S/2014/518 The was the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Abyei.

 

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