What's In Blue

Posted Wed 4 Dec 2013

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

Tomorrow morning (5 December), the Security Council is expected to be briefed in consultations by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet on Sudan and South Sudan issues and on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

Council members will expect to receive an update from Mulet on the state of relations between Sudan and South Sudan and potential next steps in the negotiations between the two countries. In recent months, in spite of the ongoing impasse over the status of the disputed Abyei region, relations between the two parties have improved, as oil has continued to flow from South Sudan to Sudan, there have not been major skirmishes along the border, and rhetoric between the two countries has not been heated. Council members may be interested in discussing with Mulet whether this apparent thaw has created the diplomatic space required for the parties to have constructive negotiations on demarcating the border, maintaining peace and stability in Abyei, and addressing other challenging issues. Likewise, members may be keen to consider what role the Council could play in supporting such negotiations.

The security situation in Abyei, which the Secretary-General’s latest report characterised as “highly unpredictable and tense”, will also likely be addressed in tomorrow’s meeting. In light of the late October unilateral “community” referendum by the Ngok-Dinka, there may be interest in learning whether this has led to an increase in tension between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities. Another security concern raised in the report is the early commencement of the Misseriya migration southwards into the Abyei area and some Council members may want an assessment of the potential for inter-communal tension and how UNISFA is preparing for this.

When the Council members last held consultations on Sudan and South Sudan, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hervé Ladsous described the ongoing tensions between the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities, noting that UNISFA has been trying to establish buffer zones between the two groups. Given these tensions, Council members may be keen to receive from Mulet an update on how UNISFA continues to address security challenges in the area and what progress, if any, has been made in negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan on the establishment of temporary institutions (Abyei Area Administration, Abyei Legislative Council, and Abyei Police Force) in the area.

Council members may be interested as well in the status of the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) along the Sudan-South Sudan border, as UNISFA is mandated to support the JBVMM. In resolution 2104 of 29 May 2013, the Council authorised an additional 1,126 troops to provide protection to monitors along the border. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that deployment of these troops began with an advance party of 117 troops. Several Council members are interested in receiving information from Mulet on when the additional troops may be deployed.

Another issue that is likely to be raised at tomorrow’s meeting is the planned but unrealised polio vaccination campaign in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. This campaign, intended to inoculate 165,000 children in Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N)-held areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, was scheduled for 5-12 November. The campaign did not take place because Sudan and the SPLM-N were unable to agree to the terms of delivery. While Sudan initiated a unilateral cessation of hostilities between 1-12 November, the SPLM-N argued that it needed to meet with Sudan first, with the AU High-Level Implementation Panel mediating, to discuss mutually acceptable terms for a ceasefire. It has also argued that Sudan should not be trusted to take part in the delivery of the vaccine, suggesting that UNISFA personnel do so instead.

All Council members are frustrated that a polio vaccination campaign in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has not been conducted, especially in light of its 11 October press statement urging Sudan and the SPLM-N to overcome their differences and implement the campaign (SC/11145). Nonetheless, there are different views on the most appropriate approach by the Council.

The US, as the penholder on Sudan and South Sudan issues, urged the Council to pursue a strong Council product in the first half of November as a follow-up to the press statement, given the failure of the vaccination effort. It seems that most Council members were also supportive of a Council outcome. However, Russia was reluctant, believing that rather than further Council action, what was needed was for the parties to implement the vaccination campaign, as called for in the October press statement. Russia also appeared to be critical of the SPLM-N, arguing that it was placing preconditions on the delivery of vaccinations by calling for direct talks with Sudan prior to the campaign’s launch.

While all Council members believe that the vaccination campaign should be conducted it seems that there have been no further discussions of a possible Council outcome that could exert leverage on the parties. It is possible that this may be raised in tomorrow’s discussion.

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