Expected Council Action
In October, 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 14 October, as requested in resolution 2630. Consultations will follow the briefing.
The mandate of UNISFA and the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) expire on 15 November.
Background and Key Recent Developments
For more than ten years, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have made no significant progress in resolving the final status of Abyei, the disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border. In the recent past, Sudan and South Sudan have been more focused on their internal situations following the 25 October 2021 military coup in Sudan and political challenges in South Sudan. On 22 September, local media sources reported that Sudan and South Sudan had resumed direct talks over the final status of Abyei.
The overall security situation in Abyei has been relatively calm in recent months, but significant humanitarian needs persist as well as intercommunal tensions, the presence of armed elements, displacement, and economic challenges. On 14 September, local media sources reported that thousands of Abyei residents demonstrated peacefully demanding autonomy from both Sudan and South Sudan, and that community leaders handed over a petition with their demands to UNISFA. On 26 September, UNISFA released a statement expressing alarm over renewed clashes between the Twik and Ngok Dinka communities in Agok, near Abyei town.
UNISFA continues to face challenges in implementing its mandate, including the need to appoint a civilian deputy head of mission (as requested by the Council in May 2019). Last year, tensions in the region affected the mission, with public calls by Sudan for the replacement of all Ethiopian UN troops. Since the mission’s establishment in 2011 until earlier this year, Ethiopia had been its sole troop-contributing country. The Secretary-General’s most recent report, covering 16 October 2021 to 15 April, noted that the Ethiopian contingent departed Abyei on 10 April and was in the process of being replaced by troops from Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The Council renewed UNISFA’s mandate until 15 November with the unanimous adoption of resolution 2630 on 12 May. The resolution did not make any changes to the force’s mandate or structure. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 11 May.)
The Council was last briefed on Abyei on 21 April by Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. Lacroix reported that, since October 2021, intercommunal violence had resulted in the deaths of 29 people and that the humanitarian situation had deteriorated. There had been no progress on the deployment of the three formed police units mandated by the Council, he said.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council leading up to UNISFA’s renewal in November is what modifications to make, if any, to the mandate and force structure. A likely option is for Council members to consider the findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate, due by 14 October.
The report is expected to provide updates on several long-standing issues, in particular:
- progress on the deployment of police;
- the appointment of a civilian deputy head of mission;
- usage of the Athony airstrip, which is crucial for medical evacuations; and
- the issuance of visas to support implementation of the mandate.
Council members agree on the important roles that UNISFA and the JBVMM play in support of achieving peace, security and stability in Abyei and the broader region. Many members are critical of the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in resolving the final status of Abyei.
It seems that negotiations on resolution 2630 were generally smooth, given that Council members apparently agreed that there was no need to update UNISFA’s mandate and configuration. The penholder, the US, apparently sought to have a straightforward renewal without making substantial changes to allow UNISFA to adjust to its reconfiguration, following the replacement of Ethiopian troops. Discussions during the negotiations centred on such issues as human rights reporting; humanitarian access; quick-impact projects for UNISFA; and language on women, peace and security. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 11 May.)
In a statement following the adoption of resolution 2630, Russia referred to its proposal during the negotiations to add language on quick-impact projects and expressed regret that the penholder did not include this in the resolution. It seems that Moscow had also raised this issue during Council members’ latest closed consultations on UNISFA, which took place on 21 April. Other members apparently felt that such an issue should be discussed in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee and should not be addressed in a Security Council resolution. Russia apparently broke silence because its suggested language on quick-impact projects was not included in the first amended draft. However, this language was ultimately not incorporated in the draft text in blue.
The US is the penholder on Abyei.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 May 2022S/RES/2630||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNISFA until 15 November 2022.|
|14 April 2022S/2022/316||This was on the situation in Abyei.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 May 2022S/PV.9031||This was the meeting to adopt resolution 2630.|
|21 April 2022S/PV.9020||This was a briefing on UNISFA and Sudan/South Sudan.|