What's In Blue

Posted Mon 23 Mar 2015

Sudan/South Sudan Consultations and South Sudan Presidential Statement

Tomorrow morning (24 March) Council members will hold consultations on Sudan/South Sudan. Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and Special Representative to the AU, is expected to brief via video teleconference. In the afternoon, the Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on South Sudan.

Sudan-South Sudan Issues
Council members may be looking for an update from Menkerios on the tenuous security situation in Abyei, the disputed region straddling Sudan and South Sudan, in light of recent violence in the region. Members last discussed this issue on 17 March during a briefing by Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous under “any other business.” He noted that on 2 March a group of armed Misseriya attacked a Dinka village, setting fire to several homes and kidnapping four children. Peacekeepers from the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) fired on the attackers, killing three and detaining several others. Based on interrogations, UNISFA learned that one of the attackers was affiliated with Sudanese military intelligence and also that the attackers had received support from wealthy individuals in Khartoum. Council members will likely be interested in any details that Menkerios is able to provide on the facts of the incident, including ensuing discussions between UNISFA and the government of Sudan, and efforts to secure the release of the kidnapped children.

Another issue that may be raised is the recent negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan on border demarcation. On 20 March, following a meeting of the Sudan-South Sudan Joint Border Commission (JBC) in Addis Ababa, the AU issued a press release noting that the JBC signed an agreement creating an escrow account to cover the costs of demarcation, approved a final list of experts (cartographers, surveyors, etc.) to participate in the process, and adopted terms of reference “to manage and supervise the boundary demarcation exercise.” Council members may be interested in how the escrow account will be funded, the next steps in the demarcation process, and whether there is an indication that the parties have demonstrated flexibility regarding any of the disputed areas along the 1,250 mile border.

A continuing issue of concern will be the ongoing violence and related humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States in Sudan. Since December 2014, there has been heavy fighting between government and rebel forces in the two areas, especially in South Kordofan, resulting in large scale displacement. As such, there may be discussion of humanitarian efforts in government controlled areas, as well as what can be done to address the government’s continuing blockage of access to rebel-controlled areas.

Given the ongoing violence in the two areas—as well as in Darfur—Menkerios may discuss next steps in negotiations between the Sudanese government and rebel groups. In its 12 September 2014 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 talks between the government and the rebels from South Kordofan and Blue Nile—as well as between the government and the Darfur rebels—appear to have made no progress. There may be interest in hearing when Thabo Mbeki, chair of the AU High Level Implementation Panel that is mediating the talks, might decide to restart the negotiations, which have not resumed since late last year.

A related issue that may be of interest to members is the plans for a “preparatory meeting” possibly at the end of March between the “Sudan Call”—an umbrella group of rebel movements, opposition political parties, and members of civil society—and the government of Sudan on the “national dialogue process”. Sudan Call envisions that this meeting should focus on procedures and requirements to be put in place prior to a constitutional review process in Sudan, whereas the government is determined to hold presidential and national assembly elections in April without such a process. Of particular interest to Council members may be whether there is any common ground for constructive dialogue in the preparatory meeting, as the positions of the government and Sudan Call are far apart.

South Sudan Presidential Statement

The US circulated the preliminary draft on 19 March (Thursday), the day after a briefing by Menkerios in consultations via video tele-conference in which he told members that hardliners from both sides remained committed to a military solution. The negotiations on the statement were straightforward, and were apparently done via email. The US requested proposed revisions from Council members by the morning of 20 March and the text was put under silence later that day until Monday (23 March) morning. It does not appear that there were any serious points of contention. The amendments consisted of minor adjustments, which did not essentially alter the substance of the text.

The draft presidential statement is largely based on agreed language, drawing heavily on resolution 2206 of 3 March, which established a UN sanctions regime on South Sudan. It expresses profound disappointment over the failure of President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar and other parties to reach agreement on transitional arrangements for a government of national unity by the 5 March deadline set by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. The draft statement reiterates the Council’s intent to impose any sanctions that may be appropriate, including an arms embargo or targeted measures against senior figures who have threatened South Sudan’s peace, security and stability as well as to adjust the measures in resolution 2206 based on the actions and choices of the parties.

One of the few examples of new references in the draft text is language on how the Council is looking forward to the rapid formation of the Panel of Experts to assist the Sanctions Committee, including by providing it with relevant information on individuals or entities that could potentially be listed. The presidential statement appears to be an effort to signal to the parties that the failure to meet the 5 March deadline for a peace agreement did not pass unnoticed by the Council, although that deadline expired over two weeks ago. It does not put additional pressure on the parties, primarily reiterating what the Council has already stated in previous outcomes. Given the lack of substantive amendments to the draft text, it appears that there was no appetite among Council members to try for anything stronger.

The adoption takes place as the new sanctions committee, chaired by Chile, prepares to embark on its work. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday (25 March) during which it will likely discuss the draft guidelines for its work.