June 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2015
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In June, Council members will hold their quarterly meeting on the implementation of resolution 2046 on Sudan-South Sudan relations. The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkerios, is expected to brief. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.

Key Recent Developments

Mired in their respective domestic crises, Sudan and South Sudan have been unable to make progress on bi-lateral issues including border demarcation and the final status of the Abyei area. Furthermore, accusations continue regarding cross-border military activity and support for rebel groups in each other’s territory. On 8 April, South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing civilian areas just across the border in Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states. Sudan has denied responsibility for these bombings. On 28 April, following clashes between Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir threatened to pursue JEM from South Darfur into South Sudan, whose government he accused of providing support to the Darfuri rebels.

The mediation process led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP), appears to have reached an impasse once again. On 1 April, AUHIP released a statement announcing an indefinite suspension of the pre-dialogue meeting initially scheduled for 30 and 31 March. (On 12 September 2014, the AU Peace and Security Council mandated AUHIP to facilitate an effective, transparent and inclusive national dialogue among Sudanese stakeholders, including the convening of a meeting to resolve procedural and process issues.) AUHIP suspended the pre-dialogue meeting due to a lack of participation by relevant stakeholders, particularly representatives of Sudan’s governing National Congress Party (NCP). On 10 April, the head of the government’s negotiating team, Ibrahim Ghandour, attributed the NCP’s refusal to participate to its objections regarding holding the AUHIP-mediated negotiations prior to upcoming national elections.

On 27 April, Omar al-Bashir was re-elected president of Sudan with 94 percent of the vote in an election boycotted by the major opposition parties. The troika countries (Norway, the UK and the US) issued a statement criticising Sudan’s “failure to create a free, fair and conducive elections environment” and stating that “the outcome of these elections cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people”. The national elections were conducted over a four-day period starting on 13 April. According to official figures, voter turnout was 46 percent, but many observers suspect that the actual level of voter participation was lower.

During the run-up to the election, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) launched offensives in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (the Two Areas). This included shelling Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan, attacking government forces and numerous garrisons and seizing a vehicle carrying ballot boxes. The stated purpose of the offensives was to disrupt the conduct of elections in the Two Areas in support of the boycott by opposition parties. Following the election, there appears to be a renewed determination by government forces to undertake offensives against the SPLM-N before the onset of the rainy season. On 4 May, Mohamad Hamdan Daglo, commander of the RSF, vowed to intensify attacks on the SPLM-N. On 6 May, Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein claimed that the Sudan Armed Forces and RSF would “clear out the rebels”.

Council members last held consultations on Sudan and South Sudan on 24 March, when Menkerios briefed via video teleconference. More recently, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations on 5 May regarding the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). One issue that has implications for Sudan-South Sudan relations beyond the status of Abyei is the operation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which UNISFA is mandated to support. According to the Secretary-General’s 29 April report on UNISFA, an assessment of the JBVMM is underway, and its conclusions will be presented to the Council prior to consideration of UNISFA’s mandate renewal in July.

Key Issues

The principal challenge is whether and how the Council can encourage constructive negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N, particularly as a considerable escalation of the conflict in the Two Areas appears to be imminent.

An underlying risk is that support (frequently alleged and consistently denied) by Sudan and South Sudan for rebel groups operating in each other’s territory could potentially lead to an interstate conflict of even greater magnitude.

Options

Incentives and disincentives—“carrots” and “sticks”—the Council could consider deploying in support of the mediation work of Mbeki and Menkerios include:

  • offering backing for debt relief in exchange for peace and democratisation in Sudan (nearly 25 percent of Sudan’s total external debt of $45 billion is held by France, the US, China and the UK, in declining order);
  • requesting the Secretary-General to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of war crimes committed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile;
  • imposing (or threatening to impose) a targeted asset freeze, travel ban and territorial arms embargo over South Kordofan and Blue Nile; and
  • requesting a report from the Secretariat on alleged support by Sudan and South Sudan for rebel groups on either side of the border.
Council Dynamics

While there seems to be frustration among Council members that Sudan and South Sudan have not made progress in resolving fundamental border-related challenges, members realise that the internal crises in both countries have made it difficult for them to exert the energy and attention required to address these bilateral issues.

Divisions on the Council regarding South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue to prevent it from playing a constructive role in mitigating the suffering of civilians, as the government prevents humanitarian aid from reaching rebel-held territories and carries out indiscriminate aerial bombardments. These divisions also appear to have pre-empted innovative thinking regarding how it could more influentially intercede in support of external mediation efforts aimed at resolving conflict in the Two Areas.

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.
Secretary-General’s Report
29 April 2015 S/2015/302 This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNISFA.

USEFUL ADDITIONAL RESOURCE

Communiqué [PSC/PR/COMM.(CDLVI)], AU Peace and Security Council, 12 September 2014