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Consultations on Sudan/South Sudan and UN Interim Security Force for Abyei

Tomorrow morning (7 August) the Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues and on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet is expected to brief on both matters. No immediate Council outcome is anticipated.

A continuing source of concern among Council members is Sudan’s threat to turn off the flow of oil from South Sudan by 22 August because Sudan believes that South Sudan is supporting rebels on its territory. It seems that this will be an important topic of discussion in tomorrow’s meeting. Some Council members may be interested in learning from Mulet about recent diplomatic efforts that have been made by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and other actors to convince Sudan not to follow through with this threat. While some Council members tend to highlight the threat Sudan faces from rebel groups, it appears that there is widespread discomfort on the Council with the manner in which Sudan is using oil as a bargaining chip in its relations with South Sudan.

There may also be interest among some Council members in hearing tomorrow about progress made in the work of two mechanisms – the Ad-hoc Investigative Mechanism and the AU Border Programme Mechanism – that have been established at the suggestion of AUHIP Chair Thabo Mbeki.

The first of these, the Ad-hoc Investigative Mechanism, was launched on 22 July by the AU Commission and IGAD to investigate accusations that Sudan and South Sudan have made against one another for allegedly supporting rebel groups on the other’s territory. (Sudan has said that it will initiate its oil shut down by 22 August, well before the six weeks that the Ad-hoc Investigative Mechanism has allotted to itself to investigate the accusations upon which Sudan is predicating its threat to shut down the flow of oil.)

The second recently established mechanism is the one that the AU Border Programme has established to determine the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) between the two countries. This is a critical issue for the Council because if Sudan and South Sudan cannot come to terms on where the centre line is, then the precise boundaries of the SDBZ can be called into question as well. Regrettably, the lack of a clearly defined SDBZ has implications for security along the border, as each side can position troops in areas along the border while arguing that they are not within the SDBZ, even if the other side claims that those troops are within the SDBZ. This was an issue that was raised during the 24 July semi-monthly consultations on Sudan-South Sudan issues, which could be discussed tomorrow as well. Furthermore, the SDBZ’s geographical boundaries have implications for the mandated border verification and monitoring activities of UNISFA along the Sudan-South Sudan border.

Regarding UNISFA, Council members may be interested in learning more about progress that has been made in operationalising the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. According to the 29 July UNISFA report of the Secretary-General (S/2013/450), the UN and Ethiopia had been “working to expedite an advance party of the force protection unit [120 troops] in early August…to enable the Monitoring Mechanism to conduct ground verification from its headquarters in Kadugli.” Some Council members may be interested in knowing whether these troops have been deployed, and if so, how quickly the ground verification can commence. (Monitoring and verification is expected to commence once forces are in place to provide security for the monitors).

Another issue of interest to some Council members that may be discussed tomorrow is progress that has been made in the joint AU-UN investigation into the 4 May killing of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief by a member of the Misseriya group in the Abyei area. According to the most recent Secretary-General’s report, this investigation, which began on 15 July, is expected to last four weeks. Likewise, Council members may be interested in hearing about recent activities UNISFA has taken to prevent violence between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka.

Some members may also raise the political and humanitarian challenges in both Sudan and South Sudan during tomorrow’s meeting, especially considering that in many instances the internal situation in both countries is relevant to their relations with one another.

In Sudan, the longstanding political and humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states continues to be a great concern to some Council members. This is especially the case given the lack of meaningful progress in gaining humanitarian access to the two areas, as well as the lack of progress regarding political engagement between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North, the former northern branch of the ruling party in South Sudan before the country gained independence.

Regarding South Sudan, it is possible that some members may bring up the grave humanitarian crisis in Jonglei state, which has been plagued by inter-communal violence and fighting between the government and the rebel group associated with David Yau Yau, who South Sudan has argued is being armed by Sudan. Additionally, there may be some discussion of the political situation in Juba, where President Salva Kiir appointed a new cabinet following his dismissal of all ministers and deputy ministers on 23 July. (Kiir has yet to name a new Vice-President, after relieving Riek Machar of this position). Some Council members may be particularly interested in discussing how the sacking of SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum, who was also lead negotiator for South Sudan, will impact interactions with Sudan, especially considering that no one has been appointed to replace Amum as the lead negotiator.

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