Consultations on Sudan-South Sudan and UNISFA
Tomorrow morning (23 May) the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Sudan-South Sudan and the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA). Edmond Mulet, Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is scheduled to brief. No immediate outcome is expected, although the Council will likely renew UNISFA’s mandate before its expiration at the end of the month. (The UNISFA adoption is currently scheduled for 29 May.) At press time, the Council had also been negotiating a draft presidential statement welcoming progress in the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. However, it is unclear when, and if, the Council will be able to achieve consensus on this statement.
While Council members have been apprised of many of the recent developments in Abyei through the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNISFA (S/2013/294) and during recent consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues, the report raises several concerns that will likely come up in tomorrow’s meeting. One topic that is likely to be discussed by Council members is the volatile security situation in Abyei, as evidenced by numerous incidents of inter-communal violence between the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka groups in recent weeks.
Another matter of continuing concern to several Council members highlighted in the report is the fact that Sudan and South Sudan have yet to establish the Abyei area institutions, including the Abyei Area Council, the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service. According to the report, the lack of these institutions “continue(s) to undermine efforts to stabilise the security and humanitarian situation”.
UNISFA’s mandate may also be discussed given the upcoming renewal of the mission.
The Secretary-General has requested an increase of 1,126 military personnel in the authorised troop level in order to provide protection for monitors and support staff that will comprise the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border. It seems that most, if not all, Council members will support this request. In consultations in April, at least one delegation suggested that perhaps UNISFA could provide force protection for JBVMM personnel at its current force level.
However, recent violent incidents in Abyei, notably the killing of the Ngok-Dinka Paramount Chief, Deng Kuol Deng, on 4 May, have strengthened the view of several Council members that troops currently in Abyei should not be diverted from their tasks, and that authorising additional troops to provide force protection for JBVMM staff would be the appropriate approach. It seems one member had suggested in April the possibility of reviewing the force level of the mission within three months if the Council increases troop levels, but it is unclear whether Council members will consider this option in the negotiations on the resolution.
There may also be some discussion of how UNISFA can strengthen its role in protecting civilians, a concern of some Council members, especially given the spate of recent incidents of inter-communal violence targeting civilians.
Some members will also likely be interested in getting Mulet’s perspective on the internal military situation within Sudan – as well as within South Sudan – and how these internal conflicts impact the Sudan-South Sudan relationship. Recent media reports have indicated that Sudan is preparing for a major offensive against the Sudan Revolutionary Front, the umbrella group consisting of rebel groups based in Darfur and South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In South Sudan, fighting with rebels associated with David Yau Yau in Jonglei state has been particularly intense in recent weeks. Both Sudan and South Sudan accuse one another of supporting rebels in their respective countries.
Also an issue that Council members will be interested in is whether (and when) Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North will resume direct negotiations. While little progress was made, the parties held direct talks from 23-26 April, and they were expected to reconvene in May. Presidents Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Salva Kiir of South Sudan, who met on 12 April in Juba, were also expected to meet in May in Sudan, but it is unclear if and when this summit will take place. Council members may seek information from Mulet on these prospective meetings.
Another matter that Council members may seek clarity on is recent media reports about a disruption of the flow of oil from South Sudan to Sudan. South Sudan has accused Khartoum of shutting down a pipeline into Sudan, an accusation that Sudan has denied.