What's In Blue

Posted Tue 10 Apr 2012

Consultations on Abyei

Council members are scheduled to meet in consultations tomorrow morning (11 April) to discuss the most recent Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abyei (S/2012/175), the disputed territory straddling Sudan and South Sudan. Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is likely to brief on the report and latest developments on the ground. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.

It seems that reports of several recent bombardments along the border are likely to also be on Council members’ minds, particularly the violence on Monday (9 April) in Heglig in the Southern Kordofan state in Sudan. This is likely to also be a focus of Mulet’s briefing and may lead a broader discussion of Sudan-South Sudan issues.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Abyei, while noting some progress made by the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in defusing inter-communal tensions and demining, clearly recognises the difficult situation on the ground. The report covers a number of areas that have stagnated and are likely to be of concern to Council members. An issue that the Council has been watching is the continuing presence of security forces from Sudan and South Sudan in violation of the 20 June 2011 agreement in which the parties committed to demilitarising Abyei. Council members are aware that this could lead to conflict with internally displaced persons returning to Abyei and migrating nomads. (Sudan has said that it will not remove its security forces from the area until the Abyei Area Administration is established, but the two sides have been unable to establish the Administration because they cannot agree on mutually acceptable candidates to serve in it.)

Council members are also aware that UNISFA has not been able to conduct its mandated border monitoring support role because the parties have yet to map out the safe demilitarised border zone and agree on headquarters and sector sites for the joint border verification and monitoring mechanism. There appears to be a growing sense among some Council members that Abyei is victim to a political stalemate, which is unlikely to change until Sudan and South Sudan are able to make progress in negotiating fundamental issues separating them.

Given the challenging relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, it is possible that unresolved issues between both countries, including oil revenue-sharing and citizenship, although not directly related to Abyei, may be raised during the consultations. In particular, several Council members seem eager for more information on a potential summit between President Omar-al Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan. (This summit, which had been scheduled for 3 April, was suspended after fighting erupted along the border of Sudan and South Sudan in late March. However, after separate meetings late last week with Thabo Mbeki, head of the AU’s High-Level Implementation Panel, the two countries appear receptive to rescheduling the summit, although a time and location has yet to be determined).

For more information on the Security Council and the situation in Abyei please refer to our April 2012 Monthly Forecast available at www.securitycouncilreport.org.

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