October 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2017
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Sudan/South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members are expected to be briefed on the second of two reports requested in resolution 2352 on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Members will also be briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), also requested in resolution 2352. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom will brief on Sudan/South Sudan issues as well during the month.

UNISFA’s mandate expires on 15 November 2017.

Key Recent Developments

The Sudanese and South Sudanese governments have made no recent progress in resolving the status of Abyei, the disputed territory along the Sudan/South Sudan border, which remains in administrative and political limbo. In the absence of large-scale clashes and displacements, the security and humanitarian situation has continued to remain relatively stable in Abyei.

With the failure to implement the 20 June 2011 agreement, which established temporary arrangements for the administration and security of Abyei pending resolution of its status, criminal incidents, intercommunal tensions, and the proliferation of arms create a continued risk to the relative calm in the area. The institutions called for by the agreement, including the Abyei Area Administration, the Abyei Area Council and the Abyei Police Service, have yet to be established. 

In August, South Sudan declined to take part in a meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) organised by the AU in Addis Ababa. Bimonthly meetings of the AJOC were agreed to in an outcome document signed by both parties in May, the first time the AJOC had met after more than two years of suspension, but to date no such meetings have taken place.    

Against this backdrop of political paralysis, UNISFA continues to maintain law and order and a measure of stability in Abyei. Given the absence of the Abyei Police Service, the UNISFA police component has continued its efforts to support the maintenance of law and order through community-based interactive patrols and continued capacity-building of community protection committees.

There has still been no progress in agreeing on the removal of armed Sudanese police from around the Diffra oil facility, as required by several Security Council resolutions that have called for the demilitarisation of Abyei (with the exception of UNISFA peacekeepers and the yet-to-be-established Abyei Police Service).

On 15 May, the Council adopted resolution 2352, renewing the mandate of UNISFA until 15 November, while warning that support would be withdrawn unless Sudan and South Sudan complied fully with their obligations. In particular, the resolution decided that the extension of support for the JBVMM would “be the final such extension unless both parties demonstrate through their actions clear commitment and steadfast guarantees for implementation of the JBVMM”. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to report by 15 October on the mechanism’s status and whether it had reached full operating capability.

Council members were last briefed in consultations on the issue on 9 August by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane.

Key Issues and Options

The key issue facing the Council is whether Sudan and South Sudan have made any progress towards operationalisation of the JBVMM and the full implementation of the 20 June 2011 agreement required by resolution 2352 in order to continue the support for JBVMM. A related issue is whether the Council should move to add any additional pressure on Sudan and South Sudan in the absence of such progress.

One option is for the Council to issue a presidential statement reiterating its intent to alter the UNISFA mandate should the parties fail to demonstrate a clear commitment to resolving the current impasse. Another option is for the Council to take a more conciliatory approach, reiterating the Council’s willingness to remain engaged.

Council Dynamics

Negotiations on the renewal of UNISFA’s mandate in May revealed a divide in the Council between the US and Ethiopia, the primary troop-contributing country for UNISFA, on the current mandate and troop ceiling for the mission. The US appears to have been concerned that UNISFA is persisting longer than intended for an interim force, and that Sudan and South Sudan are taking advantage of the relative stability UNISFA provides to delay attempts to resolve the status of Abyei. During the May negotiations, Ethiopia, supported by a number of other Council members, argued that a reduction in the troop ceiling would undermine the effectiveness of the mission. This difference in perspective is likely to be reflected in any meetings in October on Sudan/South Sudan.

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. However, the upcoming renewal of UNISFA’s mandate in November, and the focus on the JBVMM following the adoption of resolution 2352, presents an opportunity for Council members to direct renewed attention to the issue.

The US is the penholder on Abyei.

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Security Council Resolutions
15 May 2017 S/RES/2352 This was a resolution that extended UNISFA’s mandate until 15 November 2017.
14 December 2011 S/RES/2024 This resolution added a border-monitoring support role to UNISFA’s mandate.
Secretary-General’s Reports
31 July 2017 S/2017/649 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei.
5 April 2017 S/2017/293 This was a special report of the Secretary-General on the review of UNISFA’s mandate.

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