Expected Council Action
In April, the Council expects to receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), due by 15 April, as requested in resolution 2550.
The mandate of UNISFA and the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) expire on 15 May.
Key Recent Developments
Bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan continue to improve. Despite the continued rapprochement between the two countries, however, little progress has been made in resolving the final status of Abyei—the disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border—and the security situation there remains volatile. On 12 November 2020, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2550, renewing the mandate of UNISFA and the mission’s support for the JBVMM until 15 May. It maintained the authorised ceilings of 3,550 troops and 640 police. The resolution contained new language in relation to an exit strategy for UNISFA. It requested the Secretary-General to develop options for the responsible drawdown and exit of the mission and to submit a report on these no later than 31 March. The resolution noted that these options should prioritise the safety and security of civilians living in Abyei, account for the stability of the region, and include an option for a responsible drawdown and exit of UNISFA that is not limited by implementation of the Agreement on the Temporary Arrangements for the Administration and Security of the Abyei Area agreed to by the parties in June 2011. At the time of writing, the report on drawdown options was not yet available.
On 22 December 2020, the Council adopted resolution 2559 on the exit of the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The resolution terminated the mandate of UNAMID on 31 December 2020 and requested the Secretary-General to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNAMID personnel by 30 June. On 12 March, the Council adopted resolution 2567, renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan for one year. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue stories of 21 December 2020 and 11 March.)
The Council was last briefed on Abyei on 22 October 2020 by Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Parfait Onanga-Anyanga.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council to consider leading up to UNISFA’s renewal in May is what modifications to make to the mandate and force structure in light of the situation on the ground. A likely option is for Council members to take into account the findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the mandate of UNISFA, due by 15 April. The report is expected to cover progress in relation to several long–standing issues, including:
- engagement by the AU on political mediation of the Abyei dispute and Sudan and South Sudan border issues;
- recommendations on the most appropriate framework, structure or organisational mandate for the region to provide support to the parties that will enable further progress in resolving the status of Abyei and other border issues;
- efforts by the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa to support the AU and help the parties to establish temporary administrative and security arrangements for Abyei and to achieve a political solution to the status of Abyei;
- progress in increasing UNISFA’s police component;
- appointment of a civilian deputy head of mission, as requested by the Council in May 2019;
- usage of Athony airport; and
- the issuance of visas to support implementation of the mandate.
Another option is to consider requesting an independent review of UNISFA in light of recent political developments between and within Sudan and South Sudan, as expressed in resolution 2550.
Also a key issue is what steps to take in relation to the drawdown and exit of the mission. These could be informed by the Secretary-General’s report on options for the drawdown of the mission, due by 31 March as requested in resolution 2550.
The US, as penholder on the issue, put forward language about considering an exit strategy for UNISFA during negotiations in November 2020, which was included in resolution 2550. In its explanation of vote following the resolution’s adoption on 12 November 2020, the US said that “given the warming relations between the Sudan and South Sudan, a responsible exit strategy should be developed, and it must account for the continued security needs of the people of Abyei”. The US also urged the AU to “play a key role” in this regard and to support the parties to achieve further political progress. The US has in the past pushed for troop reductions, asserted that UNISFA is persisting longer than intended for an interim force, and pressed for a viable exit strategy for the mission.
At the 22 October 2020 meeting, the three African members (Niger, South Africa and Tunisia) and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines made a joint statement emphasising the “continued relevance of the UNISFA mandate in stabilizing the Abyei area and along the border, and in bringing certainty amid these uncertain times”. They also endorsed the extension of the mission’s mandate.
The US is the penholder on Abyei.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2567||This renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for one year.|
|22 December 2020S/RES/2559||This was on the expiration of the mandate of UNAMID on 31 December 2020.|
|12 November 2020S/RES/2550||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNISFA until 15 May 2021.|
|15 October 2020S/2020/1019||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNISFA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 November 2020S/PV.8774||This was the unanimous adoption of resolution 2550.|
|22 October 2020S/PV.8772||This was a briefing on Sudan/South Sudan.|