Expected Council Action
In May, 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 1 May, as requested in resolution 2660 of 14 November 2022. 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.
Key Recent Developments
The Council was last briefed on Abyei on 27 October 2022 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. On 14 November 2022, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2660, extending the mandate of UNISFA and the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) until 15 November. The JBVMM was established in 2011 to conduct monitoring and verification activities along the Sudan-South Sudan border.
On 2 April, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the Deputy Chairperson of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, chaired a meeting in Khartoum of the Higher Committee for Political and Administrative Oversight of the Abyei area, the disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border. In a press statement following the meeting, the rapporteur of the committee, Mohamed Abdullah Wad-Abuk, noted that the discussions focused on examining the humanitarian and security situation in Abyei and setting directives for maintaining security and stability in the region. He also emphasised the need to implement the agreement on administrative and political arrangements signed by Sudan and South Sudan.
On 10 April, Dagalo and Tut Gatluak, South Sudan’s presidential adviser, met in Khartoum to discuss the situation in Abyei. According to local media reports, the discussion focused on the provision of humanitarian assistance and services in Abyei, as well as the implementation of development projects in the area, with the support of the UN and other international actors. The two sides agreed to a future meeting in Juba to continue discussions on Abyei, including on the final status of the region. Given recent developments in Sudan, this meeting is unlikely to happen soon.
From 3 to 6 April, representatives from the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka communities, including women and youth leaders and politicians, participated in the Inter-Communal Peace Conference in Wau, South Sudan. During the conference, among other things, the communities agreed to cease hostilities, allow unhindered movement for humanitarian assistance, and facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.
In a 20 April statement, UNISFA welcomed the holding of the Inter-Communal Peace Conference and urged the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka communities to adhere to the outcome of the meeting and engage constructively to resolve their differences. It also extended support for the proposal put forth by the governor of Warrap State and the chief administrator of Abyei to establish a joint committee comprising representatives of the two communities and “peace partners” such as UNISFA and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The proposal calls for the joint committee to meet with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the political and security leadership of South Sudan to convey the ideas of both communities and concerns regarding the “buffer zones”.
UNISFA, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Concordis International (a peacebuilding non-governmental organisation) organised a four-day conference in Todach, Abyei from 20 to 23 March aimed at reviving and reviewing the agreements signed by the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities in 2016 on the peaceful management of the annual transhumance migration. Over the decades, both communities have had disagreements over the ownership of land, access to water, and grazing areas. According to UNISFA’s 23 March press statement, the sides reached a peace agreement ensuring freedom of movement in Abyei, the withdrawal of all militias and armed units from Abyei, and the reactivation of the Joint Peace Committee to ensure continuous communication and dialogue between the two communities at the leadership level through quarterly conferences. Among other things, both communities called on UNISFA to intensify patrolling along the roads and villages within Abyei and to ensure that Sudan and South Sudan withdraw armed groups and militias from Abyei.
In a 1 March statement, UNISFA condemned the movement of armed elements within the southern part of Abyei on 28 February. It expressed deep concern that this development might exacerbate the conflict in the area and increase humanitarian challenges for the civilians in the area. The statement reaffirmed that Abyei remains a weapons-free area that should not have the presence of any force of both communities. It urged all parties to cease fire and allow the political process to resolve the crisis.
According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), an organisation that collects conflict- and crisis-related data, in 2022, Abyei witnessed the highest number of violent incidents recorded by ACLED for any year since 2011, with 48 incidents.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is finding an avenue to continue the renewed engagement in the political process to address the final status of Abyei and Sudan-South Sudan border issues. It remains to be seen if the recent fighting that erupted in Sudan on 15 April, between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group, may hinder the political process.
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 1 May.
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 Anthony airstrip, which is crucial for medical evacuations; and
- the issuance of visas to support the implementation of the mandate.
Council members agree on the key role 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.
The unanimous adoption of resolution 2660 demonstrated that the Council remains unified in its view that UNISFA plays an important role in regional stability and advancing efforts toward the political settlement of the Abyei question.
The US is the penholder on Abyei.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 November 2022S/RES/2660||This was the resolution that renewed the mandate of UNISFA until 15 November 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|30 April 2023S/PV.9170||This was a briefing on UNISFA.|