Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), circulated to Council members on 16 October.
The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of UNISFA and 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, before their expiration on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
According to the Secretary-General’s UNISFA report, which covered developments from 19 April to 3 October, no progress was made in resolving the final status of Abyei, the disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border, amidst the fighting in Sudan that erupted on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. The report added that security forces from both countries continued to be present inside Abyei, including the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces and the South Sudan National Police Service in the southern part of Abyei and the Diffra oil police in the north. The presence of these forces violates the 2011 Agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei Area, as well as the mandate of UNISFA.
The fighting in Sudan has also contributed significantly to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Abyei region because of the influx of South Sudanese returnees, displaced Sudanese, and third-country nationals fleeing the crisis in the Sudan. The Secretary-General’s report noted that as at 19 September, 9,331 individuals had entered Abyei from Sudan since the onset of the conflict. The report further said that the disruption of economic activities in Sudan—the source of many basic goods and commodities in Abyei—posed a serious challenge.
The Secretary-General’s report also noted that the implementation of the JBVMM’s mandate was significantly affected by the outbreak of conflict in Sudan with the closure of Sudanese airspace, making aerial patrols impossible for the JBVMM bases in Sudan. It further noted that the security situation in Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan state, had worsened primarily because of clashes between the SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Abdelaziz al-Hilu faction (SPLM-N Abdelaziz al-Hilu). On 7 June, UNISFA evacuated all internationally recruited UN staff from Kadugli to Abyei town and Entebbe, Uganda, apart from some peacekeepers, military staff officers, and military observers. The report added that, as at 19 September, “armed actors” around Kadugli had blocked the routes out of the city southwards and northwards, which created food, fuel, and other supply shortages and disrupted the electricity supply.
According to the Secretary-General’s report, the UNISFA leadership travelled to Juba from 15 to 18 May for meetings with acting South Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Dau Deng Malek and the leadership of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as well as South Sudan’s UN country team. The discussions were focused on the possible opening of resupply and rotation routes through South Sudan, as UNISFA’s main supply routes from Port Sudan and Khartoum remained closed because of the ongoing fighting, and on efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of people arriving in Abyei from Sudan.
The Secretary-General’s report further noted that the security situation in the Abyei region remained tense despite reductions in intercommunal armed clashes. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the major threats to security were related to intercommunal violence, the proliferation of arms and ammunition, and robberies along the main supply route between Sudan and South Sudan. During this period, 62 arms-related incidents were reported, resulting in 204 casualties, including 82 deaths.
On 29 September, several armed individuals attacked Ngok Dinka community members in Abyei, killing 11 civilians and injuring 16 others. In a 3 October press release, UNISFA strongly condemned the incident and said that a fact-finding committee had been convened to investigate it. The press release also implored all parties to desist from the spread of misinformation and disinformation to avoid further escalating tensions.
As part of the UNISFA reconfiguration into a multinational force, several UNISFA troop contingents—Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Viet Nam, and the Chinese medium utility helicopter unit—reached their full operational capacity during the reporting period. However, the final step towards full deployment of troops and contingent-owned equipment, which had been planned for completion by the end of May, was delayed because of the conflict in Sudan.
UNISFA continued its engagement with stakeholders to build confidence and address threats to social cohesion. The Secretary-General’s report noted that on 9 August UNISFA facilitated the convening of an emergency crisis-management mission by the Ngok Dinka paramount chief and Nuer leaders. Tensions had been escalating between the Nuer, Rueng, and Ngok Dinka communities following an attack on Rumamier village in January, perpetrated by an armed group consisting of individuals from the Twic Dinka and Nuer communities.
From 7 to 9 August, UNISFA facilitated the travel of members of the Juba-appointed Abyei administration to Wau, South Sudan, to attend reconciliation talks between the Ngok Dinka and Twic Dinka communities. The talks concluded with an agreement on a ceasefire, disengagement of armed Nuer members, and freedom of movement between the areas affected by the tensions. From 11 to 16 August, the South Sudanese Minister of East African Affairs, Deng Alor Kuol, visited Abyei, where he met with Juba-appointed Chief Administrator in Abyei Chol Deng Alak and discussed efforts to strengthen local support for the agreements reached in Wau.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council in November is UNISFA’s mandate renewal. A likely option for Council members is to adopt a resolution renewing the mission’s mandate for one year.
Another important issue for Council members is the effects of the conflict in Sudan on the security and humanitarian situation in Abyei and its possible implications for the Abyei political process. The Secretary-General’s report noted that the conflict in Sudan continues to block political progress towards resolution of the final status of Abyei and border issues and has the potential to exacerbate intercommunal tensions in Abyei. In the upcoming UNISFA mandate renewal, Council members may wish to express concerns about these effects and express their support for the ongoing international and regional efforts to resolve the conflict in Sudan.
A related issue is ensuring the resupply and freedom of movement for the JBVMM headquarters in Kadugli and two team sites, including safe passage for JBVMM and UNISFA personnel as they rotate in and out of the area.
Another important issue for the Council members is the continued presence of South Sudanese and Sudanese security forces in Abyei, in violation of the area’s demilitarised status. The proliferation of arms in Abyei is also a critical issue.
Council members agree on the important roles that UNISFA and the JBVMM play in supporting peace, security, and stability in Abyei and the broader region. Many members remain critical of the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in resolving the final status of Abyei.
The unanimous adoption of resolution 2660 demonstrated that the Council remains unified in its view that UNISFA plays an important role in promoting 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.|
|16 October 2023S/2023/777||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abyei.|