September 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2015
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AFRICA

Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In September, Council members will hold consultations on the implementation of resolution 2046 on Sudan/South Sudan issues, as well as on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Haile Menkerios, the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to brief on developments, while Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is likely to brief on UNISFA’s activities.  

UNISFA’s mandate expires on 15 December.

Key Recent Developments

In recent months, Sudan and South Sudan have not made progress in addressing unresolved issues—including the determination of the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) along the Sudan-South Sudan border, the full implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), demarcation of the mutual border, the establishment of temporary administrative units in the disputed Abyei area and the final status of the area. Both Sudan and South Sudan continue to accuse each other of backing rebels on their respective sides of the border—allegations denied by both governments. 

The humanitarian situation in Sudan and South Sudan remains troubling. As of December 2014, approximately 3.1 million people were internally displaced in Sudan. The UN Children’s Fund recently estimated that “some two million children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition.”  In South Sudan, 1.6 million people are internally displaced, while 4.6 million people suffer from severe food insecurity. More than 600,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries since the start of the civil war in December 2013, including approximately 189,000 now living in Sudan. 

On 5 July, Sudan, South Sudan and the World Food Programme extended for six months the memorandum of understanding allowing humanitarian aid to be delivered through Sudan to South Sudan. Between June 2014 and June 2015, 20,000 tons of food had been delivered to South Sudan through this mechanism. 

Little progress has been made on Sudan’s internal peace process. On 3 August, Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, met with President Omar al-Bashir to discuss intra-Sudan peace talks. While Bashir expressed willingness to reach a negotiated settlement to the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, no concrete date for resuming peace talks with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) was set. On 6 August, the SPLM-N reiterated its perspective that any framework for negotiations needs to be part of an inclusive, national process—i.e., not just focused on South Kordofan and Blue Nile—leading to Sudan’s democratic transformation.

Bashir chaired a 5 August meeting of the “national dialogue committee”, in which plans were proposed to launch Sudan’s national dialogue on 10 October. Opposition parties and rebel groups have expressed significant reservations about the government’s commitment to genuine “national dialogue”, given ongoing government repression including the arrest of key opposition figures. On 5 August, Sadiq al-Mahdi, head of the opposition National Umma Party, called for the initial stages of the national dialogue to take place outside Sudan, apparently so the process cannot be manipulated by the ruling National Congress Party.

Council members were briefed on Sudan/South Sudan issues and UNISFA on 8 July. During the meeting, Menkerios referred to accusations by Sudan and South Sudan that each was harbouring rebels on the other side of their mutual border. He further noted that there had been reports of increased fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On Abyei, Haile Tilahun Gebremariam, the head of UNISFA, observed that Sudan and South Sudan had exhibited a lack of will regarding the implementation of the JBVMM, which UNISFA is mandated to support.

On 31 July, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué (PSC/PR/COMM.2 [DXXIX]) on Abyei. The communiqué expressed disappointment with the “indefinite postponement” of the meeting between traditional leaders of the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya communities, which had been planned for 20-24 June with the goal of promoting reconciliation between the two communities and fostering stability in Abyei. It called for the expeditious establishment of temporary administrative and security institutions in Abyei, which the UN Security Council has demanded in numerous resolutions. The PSC requested in the communiqué that the investigation committee created “to investigate the killing of [Ngok-Dinka paramount] Chief Kuol Deng Kuol and UNISFA personnel on 4 May 2013” submit its report to the PSC by September. (Kuol’s killing by a Misseriya gunman exacerbated tensions between the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya in Abyei. The Ngok-Dinka have long called for the findings of the investigatory committee—which included representatives of the UN, the AU and the governments of Sudan and South Sudan—to be made public. It appears that the delay in releasing the report has fuelled reluctance from some in the Ngok-Dinka community to participate in a meeting of traditional leaders.)

Key Issues

Given the turmoil in both Sudan and South Sudan, a key question is whether these countries are in a position to work toward a resolution of their outstanding differences at the current time. Following the cancellation of a meeting scheduled for 24 August, the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) has not convened in more than two years.

The future of the JBVMM is another important matter for the Council, as UNISFA is authorised to support this mechanism. In resolution 2230, which renewed UNISFA’s mandate until 15 December, the Council took note of “the Secretary-General’s recommendations [in his last UNISFA report] that continued investment in achieving full operational capability of JBVMM should be based on a set of conditions, including resolution of the dispute over SDBZ, resumption of border-demarcation discussions, occurrence of regular meetings of the JPSM and granting of full freedom of movement”. The ineffectiveness of the JBVMM is reflected in continued reports that Sudan and South Sudan support rebels on the other side of their mutual border.   

An ongoing issue for the Council is the violence against civilians and the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. In July, Amnesty International released a report, titled Don’t We Matter? Four Years of Unrelenting Attacks Against Civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan State, in which it said that between January and April 2015, the Sudanese Air Force dropped an estimated 374 Antonov, MiG and Sukhoi bombs in 60 locations across South Kordofan. “The aerial bombardments and ground shelling resulted in the deaths of an estimated 35 civilians and injured a further 70 individuals”, the report said. It pointed to high levels of food insecurity in parts of South Kordofan under the control of the SPLM-N because of restrictions on humanitarian access imposed by the government. 

Options

Options for the Council include:

  • requesting a report from the Secretariat on alleged support by Sudan and South Sudan for rebel groups on either side of the border;
  • holding an Arria-formula meeting open to the wider UN membership and NGOs on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile to ensure that attention on this issue does not wane;
  • establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in South Kordofan and Blue Nile;
  • imposing an arms embargo on these two areas; and
  • adopting a statement urging Sudan and South Sudan to recommence JPSM meetings on a consistent basis to address their dispute over the centre line of the SDBZ and border demarcation, among other matters.
Council Dynamics

Most Council members remain frustrated that Sudan and South Sudan, engaged in their respective domestic crises, have made little headway in addressing issues of mutual concern, such as border demarcation, the establishment of temporary administrative units in Abyei and the final status of the region. Concerns expressed by some members when UNISFA was first established in 2011 that the mission could have a front row seat to a “frozen conflict” grow in relevance with each passing mandate cycle. UNISFA was intended to be an interim force, which would create space for negotiations to resolve outstanding issues, but the negotiations have not had success. 

Divisions within the Council continue to prevent it from playing a constructive role in alleviating the suffering of civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Some members, most notably the US, have expressed strong concerns about violence against civilians committed by government forces and the dire humanitarian situation in these two areas, while other members, particularly Russia, have asserted Sudan’s sovereign right to defend itself against rebels.

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

UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Resolutions
14 July 2015 S/RES/2230 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNISFA for an additional five months until 15 December 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.