What's In Blue

Posted Tue 15 Jul 2014

Sudan-South Sudan Consultations

Tomorrow morning (16 July), the Security Council is scheduled to hold its monthly consultations on Sudan-South Sudan. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios (via videoconference) and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos are expected to brief.

It is likely that Menkerios will give an overview of the status of the implementation of resolution 2046, which provided a roadmap for Sudan, South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to resolve the outstanding issues facing them. These include the operation of border security mechanisms (i.e. the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism), the establishment of temporary administrative bodies in the disputed Abyei region, the final status of Abyei, and negotiations toward a political settlement between Sudan and the SPLM-N in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Almost no progress has been made on these issues since the adoption of the resolution over two years ago. As a result, consistent with his recent meetings with Council members, Menkerios may have little to report with regard to the implementation of the resolution.

In line with his briefings in recent months, Menkerios will likely have a lot to say about the internal problems facing Sudan and South Sudan. With respect to Sudan, he may talk about recent developments in the national dialogue process, which President Omar al-Bashir launched earlier this year. Recent signs have not been encouraging. The National Umma Party, one of the leading opposition parties in Sudan, and the Reform Now Party have left the process, citing their concerns over infringements on press freedoms and the arrest of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the National Umma Party, after he alleged that government militia were committing human rights violations in Darfur. (Although Al-Mahdi was released on 15 June, several other key opposition figures have recently been arrested.) While Council members view the national dialogue as a step in the right direction, several of them believe that the government still needs to demonstrate a commitment to political inclusiveness and genuine reform.

Some Council members may also be interested in getting clarification from Menkerios on the media reports that indicate opposition parties are contesting the preparations for the general elections currently scheduled for April 2015, believing that Sudan should first form a transitional government to manage the electoral process.

With regard to South Sudan, Menkerios may discuss the status of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led negotiations in Addis Ababa between the government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition. The talks have been mired in process, stalled by disagreements between the parties including the form and substance of civil society participation, as well as disenchantment with the mediation. The latest round was suspended on 23 June. Council members may be interested in any information Menkerios may be able to offer on when the parties might reengage and potential next steps in the negotiations. They may also seek his input on how the Council can exert leverage on the parties to negotiate in good faith.

Several Council members are considering the idea of imposing targeted sanctions on those in South Sudan who obstruct the peace process and commit serious human rights violations. It seems that if regional and sub-regional bodies such as the AU and IGAD were to impose targeted sanctions first, this could provide additional impetus for the Council to propose similar measures. Russia, a veto-holding member of the Council, has publicly expressed reservations about Council-authorised targeted sanctions in South Sudan. It is unclear if Russia’s position would be altered by the relevant regional and sub-regional actors moving first.

Amos’ briefing is likely to focus on the grave humanitarian crises that continue to unfold in both Sudan and South Sudan. In Darfur, amidst ongoing fighting between government forces and rebel groups and inter-communal violence, approximately 395,000 people have been displaced so far this year, with roughly 258,000 unable to return home. Fighting has also continued in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. In a 10 June press release, 45 humanitarian organisations said that more than 100,000 people were displaced in April and May, primarily in South Kordofan. In South Sudan, in addition to the thousands who have perished since the conflict broke out on 15 December 2013, more than 1.4 million are displaced and 4 million people (more than a third of the country’s population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. Aid agencies have warned of a potential famine in the coming months.

In addition to getting an overview of the humanitarian situation in Sudan and South Sudan, Council members may be interested in Amos’ input on how the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other humanitarian actors are working to mitigate the impact of the humanitarian crises in these countries. There may also be some interest in hearing Amos’ views on whether the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has taken on humanitarian tasks in a way that has tainted the impartiality of humanitarian actors in the eyes of the government and the opposition. According to International Crisis Group (7 July 2014, “Conflict Alert: Halting South Sudan’s Spreading Civil War”), UNMISS’ “attempt to represent humanitarians has already backfired and has limited the access for humanitarians in some famine-prone areas.” This issue could be discussed in the context of how to improve humanitarian access in both Sudan and South Sudan, as this remains a serious challenge in both countries.

Sudan and South Sudan are so engrossed with their own internal problems that they have been unable to make a concerted effort in recent months to negotiate on their mutual challenges, as called for in resolution 2046. Apparently Russia would like the monthly consultations to be more focused on efforts to implement resolution 2046, but most other Council members seem amenable to a wide-ranging discussion during the monthly Sudan-South Sudan consultations that touches on the domestic situation in both countries.

Political differences on the Council have hindered efforts to influence the calculations of Sudan, South Sudan and the SPLM-N. One example is the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which has festered since 2011 without an effective response from the Council. Some non-governmental organisations have called for an independent investigation regarding violations of human rights and humanitarian law in these two states. If the Council cannot agree to such a measure, one option would be for individual member states on a bilateral basis to recommend that the UN Secretary-General pursue such a course of action after consulting with relevant regional bodies such as the AU Peace and Security Council and the League of Arab States.

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