What's In Blue

Posted Wed 16 May 2012

Renewal of the Mandate of UN Interim Force in Abyei

The Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of UNISFA tomorrow (17 May). A first draft of the resolution was circulated to Council members late on Monday (14 May), with expert level negotiations taking place yesterday, following which a revised draft was put under silence. Apparently bilateral discussions were held today to iron out final issues and the draft was put in blue late this afternoon.

The draft resolution calls for a renewal of UNISFA’s mandate for an additional six months. It also considers a potential reassessment of the mission’s configuration in four months, depending on the level of progress made by the parties in demilitarising Abyei, activating border security mechanisms, and establishing the Abyei Area Administration.

It seems that the draft resolution also reiterates key messages from resolution 2046 on Sudan and South Sudan, adopted just two weeks ago. For example, the resolution expresses support for the AU’s 24 April communiqué, which decided that the parties needed to return to the negotiating table and take several concrete steps to deescalate the tensions between them. (Most relevant to UNISFA, in the draft resolution the Council once again notes its decision that Sudan and South Sudan need to withdraw their forces to their respective sides of the border and activate border security mechanisms).

Many members consider that the Ethiopian forces which constitute UNISFA have been doing an effective job. Nonetheless, Council members remain concerned by the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan on a number of fronts. For example, border security mechanisms, which UNISFA is mandated to support, have yet to be activated. While some members are encouraged by South Sudan’s decision to withdraw its police from Abyei, they are concerned that Sudan still has police and military personnel in the area (although it appears that Sudan recently sent a letter to the Council indicating a willingness to withdraw its troops.)

More broadly, there is growing concern among some Council members that UNISFA, which is designed to be an interim force, may be present in the region well into the future, given the inability of Sudan and South Sudan to make any progress in discussions on the final status of the region.

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