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

On Monday (8 December), Council members will discuss the Sudan/South Sudan situation and the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios is expected to brief on Sudan/South Sudan via video-teleconference, while Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous will brief on UNISFA. (The frequency of briefings on Sudan/South Sudan was changed on 21 August from once a month to once every three month [S/2014/613].).

Sudan/South Sudan

On Sudan/South Sudan issues, Council members will be interested in hearing Menkerios’ perspective on recent negotiations between the Sudanese government and rebel groups and Sudan’s “national dialogue” process. In particular, Council members may appreciate a thorough read-out of the Menkerios’ 2 December meeting with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, as the negotiations and the national dialogue were a major focus. As recent developments with regard to the peace talks and the national dialogue have not been encouraging, Council members may ask Menkerios whether he sees any common ground between the positions of the government and the rebel groups that can be used as a springboard for engaging the parties in constructive negotiations, as well as about the next steps in the peace talks. In its 12 September communiqué, the AU Peace and Security Council stated “negotiations on the cessation of hostilities for the Two Areas [South Kordofan and Blue Nile states] and for Darfur should be conducted in a synchronized manner” [PSC/PR/COMM.(CDLVI)]. This is consistent with the notion that while there are two separate tracks for peace talks (one on Darfur and another on South Kordofan and Blue Nile states), they are both part of one, holistic process. However, the rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which consider themselves part of a broad coalition called the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), believe the government is trying to fragment the peace process and question its sincerity. These groups would like a constitutional review process leading to democratic transformation in Sudan.

Council members may also be interested in any information that Menkerios is able to share about the signing of the “Sudan Call” agreement on 3 December by the SRF, key opposition political parties and civil society groups. The agreement calls for an end to civil war in Sudan, and the country’s transition to democracy. Members may be keen for Menkerios’ input on how the government has responded to this agreement and how it might impact the peace talks.

Another issue that may be raised is the recent fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The conflicts in these two states between government and rebel forces are now over three years old. Most recently, clashes were reported in South Kordofan in the Alahimar area on 1 December and in al-Atmoor and Blinga towns on 2 December. Council members may be interested in Menkerios’ assessment of the recent skirmishes, whether and how they might be related to the current difficulties in the peace talks, and what the military calculations of the parties might be in the upcoming weeks and months. Additionally, some members may be interested in any information on the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as violence, displacement and food insecurity have been disturbing features of the conflict in these states over the past three years.

Also on Council members’ minds might be the recent interactions between officials in Sudan and South Sudan, and more broadly, the current status of relations between the two countries. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Bashir held a summit on 4 November in Khartoum where they indicated that they would create a joint committee to lobby for the removal of Sudan’s foreign debt. (According to the 27 September 2012 agreement on “certain economic matters” between the two countries, South Sudan agreed to help Sudan seek external debt relief in return for Sudan’s retaining the external debt liabilities of the country at the time the south became independent.) Kiir and Bashir also discussed the importance of restarting oil production in areas of Unity State affected by the South Sudan civil war, as oil from South Sudan is pumped by pipeline into Sudan. They also recommitted to not supporting rebel groups operating in each other’s respective countries. Council members may be interested in any additional information that Menkerios may be able to offer about this meeting, including whether there has been any follow-up on the issues discussed and if there are any concrete plans for the two leaders to meet again in the near future.

On the humanitarian front, there may be interest as well in an update on the World Food Programme’s initiative to ship food from Sudan to South Sudan. The goal of this initiative, agreed by Sudan and South Sudan in July, is to feed approximately 744,000 people in war-torn South Sudan. The first shipments of food began arriving in South Sudan in November.

UN Interim Security Force for Abyei

Ladsous will likely give an overview of the most recent Secretary-General’s report on Abyei (S/2014/862). The report argues that “underlying tensions and volatility remain” in Abyei and that frictions between the Ngok-Dinka, who reside in Abyei year round, and the migratory Misseriya, who pass through Abyei to find grazing land for their cattle, could lead to clashes between the two groups resulting in a “commensurate deterioration in relations” between Sudan and South Sudan. Temporary administrative and security institutions (i.e. the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Area police force) still have not been formed, even though they were called for in the 20 June 2011 agreement signed by Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan also maintains police at the Diffra oil facility in Abyei, in violation of the 20 June 2011 agreement and Security Council resolutions.

Council members have long been frustrated by the inability of the parties to make any progress in establishing temporary administrative and security institutions in Abyei and in addressing the area’s final status. There are likewise ongoing concerns among several Council members that tensions on the ground could potentially spark renewed conflict between Sudan and South Sudan and that UNISFA has now been deployed for well over three years, even though it was originally intended to be an interim mission.

Along these lines, there may be interest in getting from Ladsous the details of the discussions between UNISFA and the Ethiopian government regarding Ethiopia’s future participation in the mission. According to the Secretary-General’s recent report on Abyei, Ethiopia, which provides nearly all of UNISFA’s personnel, indicated on 14 November that it would withdraw its peacekeepers from the mission if “Sudan and South Sudan continue to fail to meet their obligations towards the implementation of the 20 June 2011 agreement.” Already in his May UNISFA report (S/2014/336), the Secretary-General wrote that Ethiopia had said that it “would need to reconsider its military commitment to UNISFA” if the parties did not “resume their cooperation to establish law and order, administration and inter-communal mechanisms.” Given these concerns, Council members may be particularly keen to learn about preparations for the upcoming High-Level Security meeting in Addis Ababa that will likely include a discussion on how to implement security measures outlined in the 20 June 2011 agreement. This meeting, which was originally scheduled for 17 November but postponed until late December, is expected to include the participation of the AU Commission, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Another issue that may be raised in Monday’s meeting is how the Council can support efforts to implement measures to enhance the stability and security of Abyei recommended by the follow-up mission to UNISFA’s strategic review. (The strategic review was completed in May 2014, while the follow-up mission—which included participation of DPKO, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the UN Development Programme—completed its final report in early November.) As described in the Secretary-General’s recent report, the follow-up mission made a number of recommendations including that UNISFA develop a more systematic approach to confiscating weapons from small armed groups or individuals and that community liaison officers be deployed to help facilitate inter-communal dialogue between the Misseriya and the Ngok-Dinka. Additionally, it called for the mission to provide support for community-oriented crime prevention and crime management mechanisms and measures to strengthen recovery and resilience programming in Abyei. Council members may be interested in Ladsous’ assessment of these recommendations, how they can be implemented, and what role the Council can play in supporting their implementation.

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