Consultations on UN Interim Security Force for Abyei
Tomorrow morning (5 May) Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet is expected to brief on the situation in Abyei and the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the matter (S/2015/302).
Members are likely to welcome the 29-30 March meeting of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) in Addis Ababa, the first AJOC meeting after a hiatus of nearly two years following the assassination of the Ngok-Dinka paramount chief, Kuol Deng Kuol, in May 2013 by a member of the Misseriya community. (The AJOC is designed to provide administrative and political oversight of Abyei, and is co-chaired by a Sudanese official and a South Sudanese official.) During the meeting, the parties condemned attacks in Abyei, and decided to convene a dialogue among traditional leaders in the region, which is expected to take place later this month.
In advance of this dialogue, UNISFA arranged for discussions at the grassroots level in mid-April in Makir and Youra villages between Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya. There was little information on these discussions in the Secretary-General’s report, other than the fact that they were convened “in an effort to restore channels of communication between the two tribes.” As such, members may be keen to receive any additional information Mulet can offer about the substance of these meetings.
Members may be interested in Mulet’s perspective on whether these recent developments may build momentum toward improved inter-communal relations between the Ngok-Dinka and the Misseriya communities and progress toward the establishment of temporary administrative and security institutions agreed by Sudan and South Sudan on 20 June 2011—i.e. an Abyei Area Administration, Abyei Area Legislative Council and an Abyei police service. As members are well aware, without these institutions, there have been difficulties in maintaining law and order in Abyei.
Given the absence of temporary administrative and security institutions in Abyei, there may also be some discussion of UNISFA’s efforts to train community protection committees (CPC) in the area. This aspect of the mission’s work is consistent with the most recent UNISFA resolution (S/RES/2205) of 26 February, which included new language requesting the mission to work with Ngok-Dinka and Misseriya communities to strengthen the CPCs.
Also likely to be addressed is the continued presence of security forces from Sudan and South Sudan in the Abyei area in violation of numerous Council resolutions. Sudanese police continue to be stationed at the Diffra oil facility, and according to the Secretary-General’s recent report, UNISFA has reported “incursions and the presence of small numbers of armed Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) personnel in southern Abyei.” The Council has repeatedly called for the demilitarisation of Abyei (other than the presence of UNISFA and the proposed but as of yet unrealised Abyei police service), including most recently in resolution 2205, which renewed the mission’s mandate until 15 July.
The inactivity of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which UNISFA is mandated to support, may be raised as well. However, if it is discussed, it is only likely to be mentioned briefly as the Secretariat is in the process of assessing the JBVMM and is not expected to finalise this assessment until later this month. As a result, Council members are likely to wait until they have time to study the report from the assessment of the JBVMM before discussing it more substantively.
There is long-standing frustration among Council members with the inability of Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the fundamental issues dividing them on Abyei. Although UNISFA was intended to be an interim mission, it was established nearly four years ago. In spite of the frustration among Council members, there is nonetheless a recognition that Sudan and South Sudan are so engaged with their own domestic crises that there has been little room to engage substantively on Abyei. At the same time, members are currently hopeful that the recent AJOC meeting could serve as a springboard to further substantive engagement between the parties to help address some of the difficult issues related to the area.