What's In Blue

Posted Wed 25 Feb 2015

Adoption of Resolution on UN Interim Security Force for Abyei

Tomorrow (26 February), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 July 2015. The first draft was circulated to Council members on 18 February and after three rounds of negotiations and some additional bilateral exchanges between Russia and the US the draft was put under silence until 11:00 am today. Silence was not broken and the text is now in blue.

While the core of the mandate will remain fundamentally the same, there are some key differences between this draft and the previous resolution (S/RES/2179) that renewed UNISFA’s mandate in October 2014. Some, but not all, of these adjustments appear to respond to the Secretary-General’s observations in his 30 January report on the situation in Abyei (S/2015/77).

Negotiations were generally cordial, but there were some differences of perspective that required more focused discussions. One such area was the language on disarmament. At the request of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the draft specifies that the mission can confiscate and destroy weapons. This is in keeping with the Secretary-General’s observation in his report, echoed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous during his briefing to Council members on 10 February, that the mission should have “a more standardised and systematic approach to confiscating weapons from armed groups or individuals, so as to decrease the prevalence of small arms in the Abyei Area.”

It seems Russia questioned why it was necessary to specify that the mission could seize and destroy weapons. It sees disarmament as already a part of UNISFA’s mandate and believes that delineating disarmament tasks in such a precise manner is not a job for the Council, which provides strategic oversight. At one point, a DPKO representative was brought into the negotiations to clarify DPKO’s position, arguing that this more precise language would help support UNISFA’s disarmament activities. In the final version, the Council requests that UNISFA report on the destruction and confiscation of weapons within Abyei as part of the Secretary-General’s regular reporting.

New language has also been added requesting UNISFA to work with Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities to strengthen community protection committees. According to the Secretary-General’s report, strengthening community protection committees will “assist with the management of law and order processes” throughout Abyei. While such committees are currently concentrated in Ngok-Dinka communities, the intention is to extend them to Misseriya areas as well. The rationale appears to be to fill a vacuum created by the inability of Sudan and South Sudan to establish temporary administrative and security institutions in Abyei.

In the draft in blue, the Council welcomes the Secretary-General’s forthcoming assessment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), and expresses its intention to consider his recommendations on the JBVMM’s operations. This responds to the Secretary-General’s recent report in which he noted that he would be conducting such an assessment and offering his recommendations on the JBVMM in his next UNISFA report, considering that this border security mechanism “is effectively not being support by the parties themselves.”

Finally, the draft text encourages close coordination among the new civilian head of UNISFA; the UNISFA Force Commander; the UN Country Teams and diplomats in Juba and Khartoum; civil society; the AU and Ethiopia. (Haile Talhun Gebremariam was appointed Head of Mission on 28 January 2015. Previously UNISFA was headed by the Force Commander.)

In a couple of instances, language in earlier drafts was omitted from the text in blue.
For example, it seems the initial version of the text included a paragraph calling on Sudan to provide evidence that net oil revenues from Abyei are being shared with the Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities in Abyei. (According to the May 2004 Abyei Protocol, each of these communities is entitled to two percent of the net oil revenue from the Abyei area during the “interim-period” – i.e. until a referendum on final status is held). However, this paragraph was omitted from the final version, with China, Russia and Venezuela arguing that this was not a matter for the Security Council, but rather an issue that should be hashed out by Sudan and South Sudan.

It also seems that during the negotiations Russia had asked for a paragraph to be added affirming the basic principles of peacekeeping – i.e. consent of the parties, impartiality, and the non-use of force, except in self-defence or in defence of the mandate. However, it appears that this paragraph was not included in the final version of the text.

Regarding other Sudan/South Sudan issues, the Council is expected to begin negotiations on a draft resolution imposing targeted sanctions (i.e. assets freezes and travel bans) on spoilers in South Sudan. The draft, which does not list any individuals, was circulated during consultations on South Sudan yesterday; negotiations are expected to commence tomorrow.