May 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2016
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Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

The quarterly consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues will be held in May. The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) prior to the expiration of its mandate on 15 May.  

Key Recent Developments

Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have deteriorated in recent weeks. On 17 March, Sudan announced that it would close its border with South Sudan, which it had reopened earlier this year. It accused South Sudan of continuing to support the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) rebel group, an allegation South Sudan denied. Also on 17 March, Sudan announced that South Sudanese living in Sudan would no longer have access to health care and educational opportunities they had previously been accorded. In late March, South Sudan claimed that on two separate occasions Sudan’s air force dropped bombs on its territory in Renk, Upper Nile state, killing livestock. Sudan has rejected this claim.  

Fighting continues to be reported in Sudan’s South Kordofan state between government forces and the SPLM/A-N rebels. On 29 March, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) said that they had taken control of Um Sirdiba, a town previously held by the rebels that had been “one of [the rebel’s] important command centres”, according to SAF spokesman Ahmed Khalifa Al-Shami. On 6 April, the SPLM/A-N attacked Sudanese forces at their Haluf base in South Kordofan, later claiming that they had destroyed the base and killed numerous government troops during the engagement.

UNISFA has continued to facilitate efforts to promote reconciliation between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities in Abyei, the disputed area straddling Sudan and South Sudan. On 25 February, it provided security for a meeting of some 300 people from both communities in central Abyei. According to the Secretary-General’s recent UNISFA report, the participants discussed “issues of mutual concern including the sharing of resources, water and pasture, migration, cattle rustling and the establishment of a common market”. On 6 March, leaders from both communities convened at UNISFA’s Todach base. They decided to establish a joint committee to address cattle-raiding and other criminal acts, but they were unable to agree on how to make the committee operational. Finally, according to the Secretary-General, Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka leaders agreed on 24 March “to establish a traditional court system to mediate civil disputes and deal with criminal activity, with support from UNISFA; form a joint committee to locate and agree on appropriate grazing corridors for Misseriya nomads; and continue with trading activities between the two communities”.

The operation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border, which UNISFA is mandated to support, continues to falter. In recent months, aerial patrols have been hindered by South Sudan’s restrictions on flight and landing permissions for monitoring along the border.

On 27 April, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations on UNISFA. He reportedly noted that recent dialogue between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities in Abyei was encouraging.

Key Issues

Key issues for the Council on Sudan/South Sudan and Abyei include:

  • fostering improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan, given the recent tensions;
  • inducing both states to establish temporary administrative and legal institutions in Abyei, given the lack of progress in determining area’s final status;
  • ensuring that  both states exhibit greater cooperation with UNISFA; and
  • renewing efforts to address the humanitarian impact of fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan.

In adopting a resolution renewing the mandate of UNISFA, the Council might consider:

  • urging Sudan to issue visas in a timely fashion to UNISFA personnel, especially its police component, which is understaffed, and to permit the delivery of construction materials to Abyei to allow for the building of improved living accommodations for UNISFA staff;
  • urging South Sudan to remove flight and landing restrictions for UN aircraft monitoring the JBVMM;
  • urging a reopening of the Sudan/South Sudan border, noting that mutually beneficial cross-border trade will result;
  • encouraging recent reconciliation efforts between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya; and
  • calling for the parties to reconvene the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, which has not met since March 2015. 

Given the continuing lack of humanitarian access to rebel-held areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, the Council could request a report from the Secretariat, in consultation with the AU Peace and Security Council, on possible options for engaging with the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N regarding humanitarian access to these areas.

Council Dynamics

The negotiations on the UNISFA resolution this month will probably not be contentious. However, there have been differences of view on the mandate and how to describe the situation in Abyei in the past that could be reflected again. As in past reports, the Secretary-General has recommended a mandate renewal of six months in his current report. During the December 2015 negotiations, Russia and Venezuela supported the Secretariat’s view that a six-month mandate would be appropriate, while the US proposed a five-month renewal (which was ultimately retained in the final text), perhaps believing that a shorter mandate might exert pressure on the parties to make progress in their negotiations. 

Russia has defended its opposition to what it views as biased language toward Sudan in past UNISFA discussions. In December 2015, the US advocated inserting language in the UNISFA draft resolution criticising Sudan for earthwork excavation at the Diffra oil facility in Abyei, viewing this excavation as a security measure that violated the 20 June 2011 agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. Russia, reportedly supported by China and Venezuela, countered that the excavation was not a threat to international peace and security and that the language reflected an anti-Sudan viewpoint. As a compromise, condemnation of Sudan for the earthwork excavation was removed from the final draft of what became resolution 2251.

The US is the penholder on Sudan/South Sudan issues, including UNISFA. 

Un Documents on Sudan and South Sudan 
Security Council Resolutions
15 December 2015 S/RES/2251 This resolution extended the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei until 15 May 2016.
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 April 2016 S/2016/353 Was a report on UNISFA.

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