Sudan/South Sudan Consultations
Tomorrow morning (18 September) Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on Sudan/South Sudan issues. The Council has held semi-monthly meetings on this matter since the adoption of resolution 2046 in May 2012. Recently, a growing number of Council members are questioning whether such frequent meetings have in fact enhanced the quality of the Council’s engagement. Haile Menkerios, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU, is expected to brief in his capacity as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan. Menkerios is likely to focus largely on the situation in Abyei and other developments affecting relations between the two countries.
Status of Abyei
The situation of Abyei, the disputed area straddling Sudan and South Sudan, is of particular concern to many Council members. Current relations between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities are particularly tense in light of continuing disagreements between Sudan and South Sudan on how to determine which country the area belongs to.
On 21 September 2012, the AU High-level Implementation Panel, which mediates between Sudan and South Sudan, proposed that a referendum be held in October 2013 to determine Abyei’s final status, with residents of the Abyei area – including the Ngok Dinka and other Sudanese permanently residing in Abyei – eligible to vote. The AU Peace and Security Council called this proposal a “fair, equitable, and workable solution” in its 24 October 2012 communiqué. However, it has not endorsed the proposal as “final and binding,” and while South Sudan supports the proposal, Sudan is strongly opposed to it.
Council members are divided on how to resolve Abyei’s status. Some believe that a referendum on Abyei in keeping with the voter eligibility criteria outlined by the AU High-level Implementation Panel represents a viable approach to finding a solution to Abyei’s status. These members note that Sudan, as a party to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, committed itself eight years ago to hold a referendum on Abyei’s final status. However, other Council members believe that holding a referendum without buy-in from Sudan would be a futile exercise whose results would exacerbate the situation on the ground.
Given tensions in Abyei between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka – which were also worsened by the killing of the Ngok Dinka paramount chief in early May by a Misseriya – Council members may be interested in what activities the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei is taking to reconcile between the two groups and provide security for the inhabitants of the area.
Sudan-South Sudan Relations
On a more positive note, Council members are generally encouraged by the recent progress in relations between Sudan and South Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) and President Salva Kiir (South Sudan) held a summit in Khartoum on 3 September. While they did not make progress on discussions on Abyei’s final status, Bashir rescinded his threat to shut down the transport of oil from South Sudan through Sudan, which had been scheduled to begin on 6 September. The presidents also reiterated their commitment to implement the cooperation agreements on oil, security, and economic issues that they had signed in September 2012. Council members will likely be interested in hearing what steps have been taken by the parties to implement the cooperation agreements, in the aftermath of the meeting.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile
As is often the case in the semi-monthly meetings, there may be discussions of the humanitarian and security situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Some Council members will be looking for an update on the conflict between Sudan and the SPLM-N in these areas, as well as developments related to the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by this fighting. The conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been a topic of the Council’s deliberation since mid-2011. In its presidential statement on Sudan/South Sudan (S/PRST/2013/14) adopted on 23 August, Council members again reiterated their call for Sudan and SPLM-N to cease hostilities and engage in direct talks to end conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, like other international actors engaged on the matter, the Council has not been able to make progress in getting the parties to resolve their fundamental political differences and the areas continue to be plagued by an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Given that there does not appear to be any movement on restarting the direct negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N, which commenced earlier this year but were aborted, some Council members may want to discuss potential approaches to convincing the parties to reengage.