April 2017 Monthly Forecast


Sudan and South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In April, Council members are expected to hold consultations on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and on Sudan/South Sudan issues. Incoming Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate, as well as on a separate report focusing on a strategic review of the mission that is expected to include “findings and recommendations for how UNISFA should be optimally configured and streamlined as appropriate”, as per resolution 2318. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom is scheduled to brief on Sudan/South Sudan issues.

The mandate of UNISFA expires on 15 May 2017.

Key Recent Developments

Immersed in their own domestic problems, Sudan and South Sudan have made no progress in addressing the final status of Abyei, the disputed territory along the Sudan-South Sudan border. Sudan continues to maintain police around the Diffra oil facility in contravention of several Security Council resolutions, which have called for the demilitarisation of Abyei with the exception of UNISFA peacekeepers and the envisioned but yet-to-be-agreed Abyei Police Service. Temporary administrative 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 and the Abyei Area Administration—have also not been established. In addition to Abyei, no progress has been made on other outstanding differences related to border demarcation and the status of disputed areas.

In recent months, Sudan and South Sudan have reportedly been responsible for delays in approvals for aerial and ground patrols needed for the effective operation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along their mutual border. The Council first authorised this mechanism in December 2011 through resolution 2024.

UNISFA held a public ceremony on 19 January at which it destroyed 13 small arms that its peacekeepers had confiscated. Since opening a facility in November 2015 to manage weapons and ammunition, UNISFA has destroyed more than 100 small arms and light weapons and more than 6,800 rounds of ammunition.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, while addressing female parliamentarians on 13 February, stated that Abyei is part of Sudan, reiterating a claim he has made in the past. Ngok-Dinka Paramount Chief Bulabek Deng Kuol criticised al-Bashir’s assertion.

More than 80 female representatives of the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities convened in the Todach—a village in the northern part of Abyei—for the “Open Day for Women, Peace and Security” on 14 February. Senior UNISFA personnel and Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka community leaders attended the meeting. The women from these communities discussed ways to promote peacebuilding in Abyei. The Ngok-Dinka group, which considers Abyei their ancestral homeland, and the Misseriya, who migrate through the area to graze their cattle, have in the past clashed with one another.

Secretary-General António Guterres announced on 23 February the appointment of Major General Tesfay Gidey Hailemichael of Ethiopia as the new UNISFA force commander. Most recently, he has served as the head of the Ethiopian Armed Forces Defence Logistics Department.

In early March, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group fighting the Sudanese government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, released 127 prisoners apprehended during fighting with government forces. Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami, a spokesman for the Sudanese army, called the releases “a positive step toward achieving peace.” The SPLM-N has been engaged in conflict with the government of Sudan in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011.

Key Issues

The key issue is to ensure that the Abyei region stays peaceful and that UNISFA’s efforts to promote cooperation and mitigate tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka continue, given longstanding concerns that conflict between these two groups could be a flashpoint for wider conflict that draws in Sudan and South Sudan.

Another important issue is to improve the cooperation of Sudan and South Sudan with the operations of the JBVMM.


The Council could request that its president for the month, the US, makes a démarche on behalf of the Council to the Sudanese and South Sudan missions, urging prompt approvals for aerial and ground patrols as a part of JBVMM.

Another option could be holding an open Arria-formula meeting in the near future on the humanitarian and security situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to ensure that attention to the impact of the conflict in these areas does not wane. 

Council Dynamics

Council members have for some time recognised that both Sudan and South Sudan are consumed by their own domestic crises, decreasing the time and energy focused on addressing their differences over Abyei and other border-related issues. The Council’s focus on Abyei has been limited in recent years, largely overshadowed by its ongoing and intensive engagement on South Sudan and, to a lesser extent, on Darfur. Concerns expressed by some Council members in the years immediately following UNISFA’s 2011 deployment that a mission meant to be an “interim force” was becoming a much longer deployment gain increasing relevance with each year, as no progress has been made by the parties in resolving the final status of the region or even in establishing temporary administrative bodies.

The US is the penholder on Abyei.

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Security Council Resolutions
15 November 2016 S/RES/2318 This was a resolution renewing the mission’s mandate for six months.
14 December 2011 S/RES/2024 This resolution added a border-monitoring support role to UNISFA’s mandate.
Secretary-General’s Reports
12 October 2016 S/2016/864 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei.

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