Expected Council Action
In November, Council members will hold consultations on Sudan/South Sudan and the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios is expected to brief on Sudan/South Sudan issues via video-teleconference, while it remained unclear at press time who would brief on UNISFA.
UNISFA’s mandate expires on 15 December.
Key Recent Developments
In recent weeks, there appears to have been some progress with respect to border security arrangements outlined in the 27 September 2012 cooperation agreements between Sudan and South Sudan. On 6 October, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, convened the fourth meeting of the AU Joint Boundary Commission, which is intended to focus on demarcating the Sudan/South Sudan border. Sudan and South Sudan were represented by State Minister of the Presidency El-Rashid Haroun and by Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Makuei, respectively. According to an AU press release issued on the day of the meeting, Chergui was “encouraged by the positive atmosphere of the meeting and the genuine cooperation the two parties are extending to the AU Commission, including the determination of their respective governments to demarcate the common boundary” between them. The parties agreed to develop a plan for the demarcation, produce a budget for the process and expedite the creation of an account to fund it.
The Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), the instrument employed by Sudan and South Sudan to discuss security matters of mutual concern, convened on 13-14 October in Addis Ababa. At the conclusion of the meeting, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to accept the centre line proposed by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), a buffer zone along the Sudan-South Sudan border. With an agreed centre line, the boundaries of the buffer zone are established, which should facilitate the work of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) agreed to by the parties in the September 2012 accords. In the past, South Sudan had been reluctant to accept the centre line, which is straddled by disputed territory, because of its concern that the line could become the de facto boundary between Sudan and South Sudan.
On 14 September, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella group consisting of several major rebel movements in Sudan released its “road map on the way forward”, in which it called for “an inclusive National Constitutional Dialogue process” to be initiated with a pre-dialogue meeting in Addis Ababa. The meeting would include procedural elements of the dialogue involving its timeframe, participants, facilitators, observers and other issues. This position is in keeping with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) 25 August communiqué, which reiterated a call for “an urgent pre-National Dialogue meeting of all relevant parties, at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa”. However, the government of Sudan rejected the convening of a pre-dialogue meeting outside Sudan, apparently because of concerns about external interference in the process.
On 10 October, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir held a “national dialogue” conference in Khartoum. The Popular Congress Party was the only notable opposition party to attend. The other major opposition parties boycotted the meeting because of their longstanding questions about the government’s commitment to genuine reform. They have also expressed concerns about ongoing repression in spite of government promises to create an enabling environment for the dialogue.
While briefing the Council on Darfur on 28 October, Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet announced that the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) was convening a meeting on the national dialogue in Addis Ababa, planned for 16-17 November. Bashir has reportedly expressed support for the national dialogue committee to meet with rebel groups and the National Umma Party, an influential opposition party.
At the 10 October meeting, Bashir promised to allow freedom of the press and to permit political parties to operate freely in Sudan, commitments previously made in the context of the national dialogue and, in the view of many observers, broken by the government. Bashir said that the government would consider expanding the cessation of hostilities that he announced in August into a comprehensive ceasefire if the rebel groups “choose peace over war and…join the dialogue”. On 18 October, the SRF announced a unilateral cessation of hostilities for six months, beginning on 19 October. At press time, the level of commitment of both sides to stop hostilities remained unclear, although a meeting between the government and the rebel groups on the cessation of hostilities is scheduled for 18-19 November in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AUHIP.
Council members last met to discuss Sudan/South Sudan and UNISFA during consultations on 17 September. Menkerios briefed on Sudan/South Sudan, and Ladsous briefed on UNISFA. Menkerios emphasised that the signing of a cessation of hostilities between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) would facilitate humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, noting that access was being blocked by both government and rebel forces. In keeping with the Secretary-General’s 11 September 2015 UNISFA report, Ladsous noted that the mission could benefit from acquiring aircraft with digital cameras, which could improve the effectiveness of the JBVMM by taking images for later analysis. As the Secretary General noted in his recent report on UNISFA, “Improved imagery would assist in determining the need for follow-up verification and investigation patrols, and would help to avoid disagreements between the parties resulting from unclear imagery of personnel and hardware on the ground.”
One key issue is whether the Council can be effective in supporting the small signs of progress in Sudan/South Sudan relations. A significant test for Sudan and South Sudan is whether they follow through on their commitments to accept the centre line of the buffer zone and begin planning to demarcate undisputed areas of the border.
Whether and how Sudan and the SRF translate pledges for a cessation of hostilities into reality is another important matter for the Council.
An ongoing issue is the need to promote constructive dialogue between the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya communities in Abyei. Relations between the two groups have been particularly strained since the killing of the Ngok-Dinka paramount chief, Kuol Deng Kuol, by a Misseriya gunman in May 2013.
The Council could consider adopting a resolution that:
- commends the recent agreement on the centre line of the buffer zone and the decision to begin planning to demarcate parts of the Sudan/South Sudan border;
- requests regular meetings of JPSM and the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, which provides administrative oversight of Abyei in the absence of temporary administrative units;
- urges Sudan and the SRF to follow through on their pledges of a cessation of hostilities; and
- urges the government to create an enabling environment, free of repression and intimidation, for national dialogue.
Another option could be holding an open debate in near future on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile to ensure that attention to this issue does not wane.
Council members have long been frustrated by the lack of progress in bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan. Given this, members will most likely be encouraged by the recent developments with regard to border security, including the decisions taken at the recent meetings of the AU Joint Boundary Commission and the JPSM.
The lack of humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been a significant concern of the Council since 2011, although divisions among the permanent members have rendered the Council incapable of playing an effective role in addressing this challenge. Traditionally, the US and a number of others have been critical of Sudan for preventing access to SPLM-N-controlled areas, while Russia has not been inclined to pressure the government to remove barriers to access and has emphasised that Sudan has a right to protect itself against rebels.
A number of Council members view the relaunching of the national dialogue process as a step in the right direction, although some emphasise that the process must be inclusive and free of repression. Russia has stated that the national dialogue is not a matter addressed in resolution 2046, which is the basis for the Secretariat’s reporting to the Council on Sudan/South Sudan, and has therefore argued that this issue should not be a part of the briefings.
The US is the penholder on Sudan/South Sudan and UNISFA.
UN Documents on Sudan/South Sudan
|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.|