Expected Council Action
In November, the Council expects to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). The Council is also expected to extend the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), established in 2011 to conduct monitoring and verification activities along the Sudan-South Sudan border.
The mandate of UNISFA and the mission’s support for the JBVMM both 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 this regard, the Secretary-General’s 13 October report, which covers 15 April to 3 October, expresses concern that the parties have not held a meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) since 2017, but welcomes the intention expressed by both countries in June to hold such a meeting in the “near future”. (The AJOC is designed to provide administrative and political oversight of Abyei and is co-chaired by a Sudanese official and a South Sudanese official.)
According to the Secretary-General’s report, the security situation remained “mostly calm, with some incidents of concern”, including 19 direct attacks against civilians, which resulted in the death of 28 civilians. During the reporting period, UNISFA troops were attacked on seven occasions. In a 26 September statement, UNISFA expressed alarm over renewed clashes between the Twik and Ngok Dinka communities in Agok in the Sector South area, 28 kilometres from Abyei town. On 14 October, the spokesperson for the Secretary-General said that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had expressed grave concern about clashes in the border area between Abyei and Warrap State.
Last year, tensions in the region affected the mission, which included calls from Sudan for the replacement of all Ethiopian troops. (Since the mission’s establishment in 2011, Ethiopia had been the sole troop-contributing country until recently.) The Secretary-General’s report states that the reconfiguration of UNISFA’s military component is approaching completion, including the arrival of 570 troops from Pakistan, 570 troops from Ghana, 77 troops from Nepal, and 184 troops from Viet Nam. Additionally, 307 out of the 570 troops from India arrived, as well as 86 Chinese peacekeepers in the military utility helicopter unit. All 491 troops from Bangladesh serving in the JBVMM have been deployed. As outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, all Ethiopian troops have been repatriated except for a three-person rear party as well as some who have chosen to stay in Sudan.
On 29 September, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) held a meeting on the political and security situation in the Abyei region and adopted a communiqué, which among other things, reiterated its call for Sudan and South Sudan to accelerate the implementation of the 2011 Agreement on Temporary Security and Administrative Arrangements for the Abyei Administrative Area, particularly in finalising the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration, the Abyei Area Council, and the Abyei Police Service. The communiqué also expressed deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and decided that the AU PSC will undertake a field mission to Abyei, although a date was not specified.
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 27 October by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 26 October.)
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, including the recommendation that the mandate be extended for one year. (Since the mission’s establishment in 2011, the Council has extended the mandate for four- to six-month periods.)
The report provides updates on several long-standing issues, in particular that:
- Sudan has not permitted the deployment of 98 out of 148 individual police officers and there has been no progress in the deployment of the three formed police units authorised in resolution 2469 of May 2019;
- the civilian deputy head of mission requested in resolution 2469 (2019) has not been appointed
- no progress has been made on the usage of the Anthony airstrip, which is crucial for medical evacuation; and
- 91 visas remain pending for personnel to support the implementation of the mission’s mandate.
An option would be for the Council to adopt a resolution renewing the mission’s mandate for one year, without making any changes to the mandate, and demanding progress on the above issues.
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 as well as on the long-standing issues outlined above.
It seems that negotiations on resolution 2630 adopted in May 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 a straightforward renewal without making substantial changes to allow UNISFA to adjust to its new composition following the replacement of the 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 Russia also raised this issue during Council members’ latest closed consultations on UNISFA, which took place on 21 April. Other members apparently felt that this was a matter for discussion in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee that should not be addressed in a Security Council resolution.
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.|
|13 October 2022S/2022/760||This was on the situation in Abyei.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|12 May 2022S/PV.9031||This was the meeting to adopt resolution 2630.|