Expected Council Action
In April, the Council will hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which is expected to be published by 15 April.
The UNISFA mandate expires on 15 May.
Key Recent Developments
Fundamental differences remain between Sudan and South Sudan with regard to Abyei. The two countries have not made any progress in addressing the final status of this disputed territory, which straddles the border of both countries. Sudan continues to maintain police around the Diffra oil facility in contravention of several Security Council resolutions. Temporary administrative and security units envisaged by the 20 June 2011 agreement between Sudan and South Sudan to provide stability in the region until its final status can be determined—including the Abyei Area Legislative Council, the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service—have not been established.
On 26 November 2015, unidentified assailants attacked the home of the Ngok-Dinka paramount chief Pagot Deng. The incident, which Council members condemned in a 27 November press statement, resulted in the deaths of a UN peacekeeper and a child.
In February, the nomadic Misseriya began their seasonal migration through Abyei in search of grazing land for cattle. In the past, this annual migration has caused friction with members of the Ngok-Dinka community, who reside in the Abyei region and consider it their ancestral homeland. On 25 February, a peace conference was held in the Nyong area of Abyei that included the participation of more than 700 Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya. Deng said that the meeting was designed to promote peaceful relations between the two communities and to discuss safe migration routes for Misseriya pastoralists through Abyei.
Council members were last briefed on UNISFA in consultations on 24 November 2015. During the briefing, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told members that the security situation in Abyei had generally been calm, as difficulty in movement during the rainy season helped keep the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities separated. He noted UNISFA’s effort to promote reconciliation efforts between the two communities at the local level. Ladsous reiterated that the UN could not invest further in infrastructure for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, which is designed to monitor the Sudan/South Sudan border and which UNISFA has a mandate to support, until the parties demonstrate greater cooperation with its implementation.
On 15 December 2015, the Council adopted resolution 2251, which renewed the mandate of UNISFA for five months. The resolution welcomed UNISFA’s efforts to strengthen community protection committees in Abyei to assist in maintaining law and order in the region.
One key issue is what role the Council can play in compelling Sudan and South Sudan to establish temporary administrative and legal institutions in the area, given the lack of progress in determining Abyei’s final status.
Getting Sudan and South Sudan to cooperate with UNISFA in a more meaningful way is another key issue. Sudan has restricted the shipment to Abyei of construction materials that could be used to develop infrastructure such as roads that could be beneficial to the work of the mission. Meanwhile, South Sudan has restricted flight and landing permissions for aerial monitoring as a part of the operations of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission.
An option for the Council is to adopt a presidential statement that:
• urges Sudan and South Sudan to convene Abyei Joint Oversight Committee meetings on a regular basis, as these meetings could provide a forum for constructive dialogue on unresolved issues and have occurred only infrequently in recent years;
• urges more consistent and meaningful cooperation with the mission by the governments; and
• encourages efforts by the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya, with the assistance of UNISFA, to promote inter-communal reconciliation.
There are no fundamental differences of view on the UNISFA mandate. However, while there is recognition that both Sudan and South Sudan face their own domestic crises, several members have been frustrated by the lack of progress made by the parties in resolving their differences with regard to Abyei.
One area where members have disagreed is with regard to earthwork excavation that Sudan has carried out near the Diffra oil facility. This excavation is a violation of the 20 June 2011 agreement between Sudan and South Sudan, as it constitutes the development of security infrastructure, according to the Secretary-General’s last UNISFA report. In the negotiations on the last UNISFA resolution, the US was critical of Sudan on this issue, while Russia, supported by China and Venezuela, maintained that this criticism was unduly antagonistic to Khartoum. It seems that Russia did not believe that the excavation could be considered a threat to peace and security.
Members have differed on the appropriate length of the UNISFA mandate. Countries such as Russia and Venezuela have in the past espoused a mandate of six months duration, which the Secretary-General has recommended in recent reports. The US, however, has generally supported mandate renewals of shorter duration, perhaps in an effort to pressure the parties to enhance their negotiations on Abyei. The current mandate duration is five months.
The US is the penholder on UNISFA.
UN Documents on Sudan/South Sudan
|Security Council Resolution|
|15 December 2015 S/RES/2251||This resolution extended the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei until 15 May 2016.|
|13 November 2015 S/2015/870||This report was on UNISFA.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|27 November 2015 SC/12142||This press statement condemned the attack on the home of the Ngok-Dinka Paramount chief.|