What's In Blue

Sudan-South Sudan Consultations and Mission in South Sudan Renewal

Tomorrow (11 July),the Security Council will consider two Sudan-South Sudan related matters. In the morning, Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on Sudan/South Sudan with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. In the afternoon, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Sudan/South Sudan Consultations

The Sudan/South Sudan consultations are likely to focus on recent tensions between the two countries and efforts to resolve them. Last month, Sudan threatened to stop the transport of oil through its territory from South Sudan within 60 days of 9 June, accusing South Sudan of continued support for rebels in Sudan. In an effort to allay tensions, Vice President Riek Machar of South Sudan led an official delegation to Khartoum from 30 June to 2 July to discuss implementation of the cooperation agreements between the two countries, the potential shut down of oil, and other challenging issues with high-level counterparts, including President Omar al-Bashir and Vice-President Ali Osman Taha. Council members are likely to be interested in learning more about the impact of this trip on relations between the two countries, as well as the substance and impact of additional negotiations between Osman Taha and Machar in South Sudan earlier this week.

How the potential shut down of oil can be averted is a key issue that some Council members may be particularly interested in discussing. In this sense, there may be some focus on the 7 July letter from Sudan to Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, in which Sudan indicates that the “shutdown would not be necessary” if South Sudan agrees to stop harboring and supporting rebels in Sudan.” (The letter was circulated to Council members earlier today (S/2013/405)).

Another matter that is likely to be raised in the meeting is the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border. Some Council members may be interested in learning when the additional troops intended to provide protection to monitors and support staff who will serve in the JBVMM will be deployed. (The JBVMM monitors and support staff will only assume their responsibilities when force protection is provided to them). A related question that some Council members may have is when JBVMM aerial reconnaissance might recommence, as these flights were suspended for security reasons in the aftermath of the shelling of the JBVMM headquarters in Kadugli on 14 June.

A long standing concern that also may be raised by some Council members tomorrow is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and what next steps might be pursued to alleviate the suffering of civilians in these two areas. On a related note, there may also be interest in learning whether efforts have been made to encourage Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to reengage in direct negotiations.

Adoption of UNMISS Resolution

The draft resolution renewing the mandate of UNMISS was first circulated to the wider Council on 1 July with negotiations beginning on 2 July. Council members held three meetings and the draft resolution was put into blue this morning. In general, it seems that the negotiations were not contentious, although there were some differences which required compromises that are reflected in the final text.

It appears the text preserves the core mandate of UNMISS, with protection of civilians and the need to support peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan remaining a major focus of the draft resolution. However, it seems that the draft resolution also incorporates strengthened human rights language to take into account recent developments on the ground. It appears that the Council will express its concern with human rights violations committed by both government forces and armed groups, while also noting that the government holds the primary responsibility to protect civilians and welcoming the government’s establishment of a board of inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations. The Council also seems to have added language this year requesting UNMISS to play a key part in coordinating support by the international community for the preparations for the 2015 national elections.

The draft resolution appears to welcome the Secretary-General’s intention for the “geographical reconfiguration” of the mission to ensure that it focuses on the most volatile areas of South Sudan, as outlined in his recent report (S/2013/366). However, some troop contributors on the Council wanted to be assured that troops deployed in remote areas would be appropriately supported. It appears that the concerns of these members were accommodated with the addition of language noting physical infrastructure construction as an element to be considered in the deployment process.

There also appears to have been some focus in the negotiations on how to balance the need for security of UNMISS personnel with the need to ensure that the mission is fulfilling its mandate as effectively as possible. In her briefing to the Council on 8 July, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative for South Sudan, noted that aviation safety procedures had slowed down the responsiveness of the mission, inhibiting its ability to protect civilians. The safety of air crews in UNMISS is an especially strong concern of Russia, which has several helicopters in the mission and lost four of its peacekeepers when an UNMISS helicopter was shot down in December 2012. It seems that a balance was struck in the draft resolution with language encouraging efforts to refine safety standards and procedures while also underscoring the need to ensure that UNMISS has the requisite capacity and resources to fulfill its tasks.

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