Sudan and South Sudan
Expected Council Action
In August, Council members are expected to meet for the quarterly consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
On 6 June, high-level Sudanese and South Sudanese officials met in Khartoum to discuss issues dividing the two countries. During the meeting, the parties agreed to continue negotiations on areas disputed by both countries and to refrain from supporting rebel groups on either side of the border. Since South Sudan achieved its independence in 2011, no progress has been made on these matters. The parties further affirmed that they would implement the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) along their mutual border. The parties agreed on a centre-line for the SDBZ in October 2015, thus defining the boundaries of this buffer zone; however, they have done little to cooperate on implementation of the Joint Border and Verification Monitoring Mechanism established to conduct monitoring and verification activities along the border. The Secretary-General stated in his 15 April report on Abyei that aerial monitoring by the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has been hindered by South Sudan’s restrictions on flight and landing permissions.
In early January, South Sudan requested that Sudan reduce transport and compensation fees on oil flowing from South Sudan through Sudan. A landlocked country, South Sudan must transport its oil through Sudan to reach the outside world. Based on an August 2013 agreement, South Sudan pays Sudan a fixed fee of approximately $25 per barrel for the shipment of oil. As world oil prices have declined, South Sudan’s oil-derived income has diminished significantly, a contributing factor to the severe economic crisis the country is now experiencing. On 20 January, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir indicated a willingness to review South Sudan’s request for a reduction in the transit and compensation fees. Nonetheless, after more than six months, Sudan has yet to agree to lower fees. Sudan, which lost 75 percent of its oil production when South Sudan became independent in July 2011, receives significant income from these fees. On 11 July, Hayat al-Mahi, chair of the energy committee in Sudan’s parliament, expressed concern about damage to oil facilities if the recent outbreak of fighting in South Sudan were to spread to its oil-producing areas.
Heavy fighting occurred in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, from 7 to 11 July between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar, claiming more than 270 lives and displacing thousands. A ceasefire announced on 11 July appeared to be holding at press time, but the political crisis has deepened after Kiir dismissed Machar from his post and on 25 July appointed Taban Deng Gai, a former chief negotiator for South Sudan’s armed opposition, as First Vice President. (For more information on the crisis in South Sudan, please see a separate brief in this issue.)
Refugees from South Sudan continue to cross the border into Sudan in an attempt to escape conflict and hunger. According to OCHA, 79,571 South Sudanese refugees arrived in Sudan between 1 January and 3 July 2016. More than 230,000 refugees have come to Sudan from South Sudan since 15 December 2013, when the civil war in South Sudan began.
In recent months, both the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF)—an umbrella group consisting of Sudanese rebel movements in the Darfur region and Blue Nile and South Kordofan states—and the Sudanese government have announced unilateral cessations of hostilities. On 28 April, the SRF declared a six-month cessation of hostilities in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan; however, fighting continued in South Kordofan and Blue Nile through mid-June. The Sudanese government declared its own four-month unilateral cessation of hostilities, effective as of 18 June, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On 22 June, the Secretary-General’s spokesman welcomed the announcements of the government and the SRF, saying “these commitments should ease the suffering of the people living in the affected areas”. However, it should be noted that the time periods covered by these cessations of hostilities largely overlap with the rainy season in the two areas (generally from June to November), a time when roads are difficult to navigate and fighting is usually limited.
On 21 March, the government of Sudan signed a roadmap produced by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, calling for a cessation of hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The rebel groups and the opposition National Umma Party have not signed the roadmap. They are concerned that the government is attempting to include them in a national dialogue process designed to prop up the regime rather than initiate real political reform. The opposition forces further maintain that the roadmap legitimises the government’s control over a non-inclusive and unfair national dialogue process. On 19 June, the government said it would not resume negotiations with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the rebel group fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, unless it signed the roadmap.
Key issues for the Council on Sudan/South Sudan include:
- how to encourage the two countries to negotiate in a meaningful way on security and economic issues, thus building on the commitments made during their 7 June meeting;
- how to bridge the gap between the government of Sudan and the opposition forces with regard to a roadmap;
- how to induce the South Sudan leaders to overcome their internal conflicts and refocus their attention on the implementation, together with the government of Sudan, of the Joint Border and Verification Monitoring Mechanism; and
- how to renew efforts to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which is entering its fifth year.
One option for the Council is to adopt a resolution or presidential statement that:
- encourages efforts by Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their dispute on oil transit fees;
- encourages the two countries to step up negotiations to reopen border trade, which would generate significant revenue for both;
- demands an end to support by both countries of rebel groups on either side of the border; and
- urges the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N to continue to engage in dialogue on a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access.
Members could also consider holding an Arria-formula meeting open to the wider UN membership and NGOs on the humanitarian situation and the need for access in South Kordofan and Blue Nile to ensure that attention on this issue does not wane.
In recent months, the Council’s attention on Sudan and South Sudan has been primarily focused on the crises in South Sudan and Darfur. Members recognise that the two countries are mired in and distracted by their own domestic crises, but in resolution 2287, which was adopted in May to renew UNISFA’s mandate, they emphasised the need for them to engage more regularly through the Joint Political and Security Mechanism and other joint platforms related to border security. Deep divisions in the Council continue to stalemate efforts to address the longstanding political and humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
The US is the penholder on Sudan/South Sudan issues.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 May 2016 S/RES/2287||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei until 15 November 2016.|
|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.|