December 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 November 2014
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In December, Council members will hold their quarterly meeting on implementation of resolution 2046 on Sudan-South Sudan relations, as outlined in a 21 August presidential note. Council members are also expected to discuss the report of the Secretary-General on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which expires on 28 February 2015. At press time, no outcome was anticipated on these matters during the month. 

Key Recent Developments

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) held its party convention from 23 to 25 October. During the convention, the NCP confirmed that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would be the party’s presidential candidate in the upcoming national elections, scheduled for April 2015. Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, had previously said he would not run in the upcoming election. 

Addressing the graduating class at Sudan’s military academy in Khartoum on 29 October, Bashir boasted of recent victories by the Sudanese Armed Forces in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile and told the audience that the army should prepare for a decisive military campaign against anti-government forces. Bashir also added that he would work to enhance the capacity of the military.

Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North rebel group commenced a new round of negotiations in Addis Ababa on 12 November, mediated by Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel. In his opening remarks, SPLM-N head negotiator Yasir Armin said that there should be “a credible national constitutional conference” in Sudan with elections taking place under the auspices of a national transitional government. He also underscored the need for humanitarian access in conflict areas of Sudan, saying that “denying it is a war crime in international humanitarian law”. Ibrahim Ghandour, who is leading the Sudanese delegation, said that the government was committed to resolving its conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, touting the country’s “national dialogue process” as a means to “reach consensus on…solutions for [Sudan’s]…major problems”. The talks adjourned on 17 November, with Mbeki declaring that each side needed “to consult and reflect” on the negotiations before reconvening.  

On 2 November, according to South Sudan, an Antonov aircraft from Sudan bombed a village just across the border in Raja County, Western Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan. Thirty-five people were reportedly killed in the attack, and 17 were wounded. 

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan arrived in Khartoum on 4 November, to meet with Bashir. The two leaders decided to create a joint committee to lobby for the removal of Sudan’s foreign debt.  (According to the 27 September 2012 agreement on “certain economic matters”, South Sudan agreed to help Sudan seek external debt relief in return for Sudan’s retaining the external debt liabilities of Sudan at the time the south became independent.)  Kiir and Bashir also discussed the importance of restarting oil production in areas of Unity State affected by the South Sudan civil war, as oil from South Sudan is pumped by pipeline into Sudan. The Raja bombing was also on the summit’s programme, although the substance of the two leaders’ discussions on this matter is unclear.     

On 8 November, South Sudan received 700 metric tons of food through a humanitarian corridor from Sudan. This represented the first shipment to reach South Sudan as part of a deal agreed between the two countries in July allowing humanitarian aid to be shipped from Sudan. Ali Zataari, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sudan, said that this shipment would feed 45,000 people for one month. The delivery is part of a humanitarian initiative orchestrated by the World Food Programme with the goal of feeding approximately 744,000 people in South Sudan. 

Abyei remains one of the most intractable issues in Sudan-South Sudan relations. Both countries still cannot agree on the criteria for voter participation in a referendum to determine whether Abyei joins Sudan or South Sudan. Sudan continues to maintain a security presence in this disputed area, and South Sudanese troops sporadically infiltrate Abyei in contravention of the 20 June 2011 agreement and resolutions 1990 and 2046, prompting concerns that Abyei could become a powder-keg for a potential Sudan-South Sudan war. Additionally, temporary administrative and security units—including the Abyei Area Executive Council, the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service—envisaged by the 2011 agreement to provide stability to the region until its final status could be determined have never been established.

On 30 October, in recognition of the first anniversary of the Ngok-Dinka community’s unilateral referendum, approximately 6,000 members of the group held a peaceful demonstration in Abyei town. (While the Ngok-Dinka voted overwhelmingly for Abyei to become part of South Sudan in their 2013 referendum, the vote was not officially recognised by Sudan and South Sudan.)

The Council last met to discuss UNISFA and the situation in Abyei in consultations on 7 October. During the meeting, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told Council members that unilateral actions by the parties had not been helpful. Mulet was referring to the Ngok-Dinka’s decision to establish a committee to lobby for international support for their unilateral community referendum. Additionally, he mentioned the instability that could be caused by Sudan’s intention to include Abyei among the areas that will participate in the country’s 2015 national elections.

Key Issues

A key issue is how much progress can be made in the negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N given the gap in the countries’ negotiating positions, with the SPLM-N calling for “a credible national constitutional conference”, a step that Sudan does not appear ready to take.      

A related key issue for the Council is Sudan’s ongoing commitment to military solutions in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, as reflected by Bashir’s 29 October address at Sudan’s military academy in Khartoum.  

Another key issue is whether the Council can exert any leverage on Sudan and South Sudan to convince them to establish temporary administrative and security institutions in Abyei, pending an agreement on the final status of the disputed region.  

Also an important issue is ensuring that stability is maintained in Abyei during the upcoming Misseriya migration through the region. (Analysts have long feared that clashes between the Ngok-Dinka, who reside in Abyei year round, and the migratory Misseriya could lead to a wider conflict between Sudan and South Sudan). 


One option for the Council is to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations that war crimes have been committed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. 

Council members could also decide to hold an Arria formula meeting on South Kordofan and Blue Nile, with civil society experts and/or witnesses as briefers, 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 ongoing political and humanitarian crisis there.

An option on Abyei is for the Council to request a briefing from the AU commission, the UN Secretariat, UNISFA and Ethiopia on recent meetings they have reportedly held with Sudanese officials in Khartoum and South Sudanese officials in Juba on strategies to stabilise the Abyei area.

Council Dynamics

There is a fundamental divide in the Council with regard to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which is now more than three years old and counting. Some members, led by the US in particular, have been highly critical of the brutal way Sudan has prosecuted the war in these two areas, given the reports of attacks on civilians. Opposing this perspective are China and Russia, which view the conflict through the prism of Sudan, as a sovereign state, aggressively fighting rebels on its territory.   

With regard to Abyei, there is widespread frustration in the Council at the inability of the parties to make any progress in establishing temporary administrative and security institutions and in addressing the area’s final status. There are likewise ongoing concerns that what was intended to be an interim mission has now been deployed for well over three years and is becoming a frozen conflict, with Abyei remaining a tense area that could potentially fall back into open conflict and with the parties unable to address the challenges dividing them there. 

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

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
14 October 2014 S/RES/2179 This was a resolution extending UNISFA’s mandate until 28 February 2015.
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
30 September 2014 S/2014/709 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei.
21 August 2014 S/2014/613 This indicated that the Council would meet on a quarterly basis to discuss implementation of resolution 2046.