March 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 February 2015
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In March, Council members will hold their quarterly meeting on implementation of resolution 2046 on Sudan-South Sudan relations, as outlined in a 21 August 2014 presidential note. At press time, no outcome was anticipated on this issue during the month.

Key Recent Developments

Heavy fighting between Sudanese government forces and SPLM-N rebels was reported in South Kordofan from early December 2014 through mid-January, especially near the state capital of Kadugli and the town of Talodi. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that Sudan’s air force bombed Frandala hospital in South Kordofan on 20 January, dropping 13 bombs. According to the aid organisation, two of the bombs landed inside the hospital grounds, wounding one patient and one staff member. The Belgian branch of MSF suspended its operation in Sudan on 29 January, citing “the Sudanese government’s systematic denial of access to people trapped in conflict areas”. On 5 February, the UN High Commission for Refugees announced that since December 2014 more than 500 Sudanese refugees from South Kordofan state had arrived at refugee camps in South Sudan escaping the violence in Sudan.

Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) commenced a new round of negotiations in Addis Ababa on 12 November 2014, 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, citing the country’s “national dialogue process” as a means to “reach consensus on…solutions for [Sudan’s]…major problems”.

The talks ended in early December, as the parties made no headway. Sudan insists on the disarmament of the SPLM-N and a ceasefire, while the SPLM-N demands that the humanitarian needs of inhabitants in South Kordofan and Blue Nile be addressed after the declaration of a cessation of hostilities.

Despite President Omar al-Bashir’s promise to create a “conducive environment” for a national dialogue process in Sudan, government repression has continued. On 3 December 2014, the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance, key opposition political parties and civil society groups in Sudan signed the “Sudan Call” agreement in Addis Ababa, calling for an end to civil war and the country’s transition to democracy. Upon returning to Sudan from Addis Ababa, two of the key signatories—Farouk Abu Issa, who heads a group of opposition political parties called the National Consensus Forces, and civil society activist Amin Mekki Madani—were arrested by Sudanese authorities. At press time, they remain in prison and are being tried in Khartoum for charges that include instigating war against the state. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

On 4 January, Sudan’s parliament approved amendments to the constitution that allow the president to appoint state governors (who were previously elected through popular suffrage) and expands the power of the National Intelligence and Security Services.

Sudan’s National Elections Commission announced that general elections—i.e. for the presidency and the national assembly—will be held from 13 to 15 April. Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, has decided to run for president again despite previously declaring that he would step down at the end of his current term. Several opposition parties have vowed to boycott the elections, citing the government’s repressive policies and believing that a broad-based transitional government that will draft a constitution that results in the democratic transformation of the country should be established instead.

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission reported on 5 January that it had extended for an additional six months its June 2014 deal with South Sudan to allow humanitarian aid to be shipped from Sudan to South Sudan in an initiative facilitated by the World Food Programme. On 29 December 2014, approximately 450 tonnes of food reached Renk and Wadakona in Upper Nile state, South Sudan, having been transported by barge from Kosti in Sudan’s White Nile State.

Council members last held consultations on Sudan/South Sudan on 8 December 2014 with a briefing by Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and Special Representative to the AU. During the meeting, members expressed frustration that the two countries have been unable to implement provisions of resolution 2046. On 11 December 2014, the Council issued a press statement in which it called on Sudan and South Sudan to implement fully the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border in compliance with resolution 2046. In the statement, members also reiterated “their grave concern about the dire humanitarian situation” caused by the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. They further called on the parties to “refrain from any acts of violence against civilians and to expedite safe and unhindered humanitarian access”.

Key Issues

One key issue is whether and how the Council can promote constructive negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N, especially given the recent surge in fighting between the government and the rebel group.

Another key issue is the ongoing repressiveness of the government in Khartoum and what implications this has for political stability in the country, especially in light of the upcoming presidential and national assembly elections.

Also an important issue is whether and how the Council can play a role in protecting civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and enabling humanitarian assistance to penetrate rebel-held areas.

Options

One option for the Council is to adopt a presidential statement that:

  • expresses concern over recent violence in Abyei;
  • reiterates its call for the parties to reconvene the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, which is designed to provide administrative and political oversight of the region but has not met since May 2013; and
  • calls on the government of Sudan to adhere to its commitment to provide a “conducive environment” for the national dialogue process in Sudan.

Another 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.

Also an option is for the Council to consider the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile during the annual joint meeting that Council members will hold with the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa in March and try to come up with new ways of addressing it.

Council Dynamics

Council members remain frustrated at the lack of progress made by Sudan and South Sudan in resolving the outstanding issues facing them, such as border demarcation, the establishment of temporary administrative bodies in Abyei and the region’s final status. On the other hand, there is recognition among members that both Sudan and South Sudan are preoccupied with their own domestic crises, which remain the primary focus of their attention.

After more than three years of fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, divisions on the Council continue to prevent it from playing a constructive role in alleviating the suffering of civilians in these areas, as the government continues to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching rebel-held territories and carries out indiscriminate aerial bombardments. Some members have expressed strong concerns about this violence against civilians, while others have asserted Sudan’s sovereign right to defend itself against rebel movements.

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

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
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 Press Statement
11 December 2014 SC/11694 This was a press statement reiterating grave concern with the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and at the “relatively calm but highly volatile security situation in Abyei”.
Other
21 August 2014 S/2014/613 This indicated that the Council would meet on a quarterly basis to discuss implementation of resolution 2046.