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Sudan/South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In August, Council members may be briefed on the first of two reports requested in resolution 2352 on the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

Key Recent Developments

The Sudanese and South Sudanese governments, still distracted by domestic crises, have made no recent progress in resolving the status of Abyei, the disputed territory along the Sudan/South Sudan border, which remains in administrative and political limbo. Despite ongoing meetings in Addis Ababa between the parties, there has been no visible advance in the implementation of key aspects of the 20 June 2011 agreement, which established temporary arrangements for the administration and security of Abyei pending resolution of its status.

On 15 May, the Council adopted resolution 2352, renewing the mandate of UNISFA until 15 November, while warning that support would be withdrawn unless Sudan and South Sudan complied fully with their obligations. In particular, the resolution decided that the extension of support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) would “be the final such extension unless both parties demonstrate through their actions clear commitment and steadfast guarantees for implementation of the JBVMM, in line with the steps outlined in paragraph 7, and requests the Secretary-General to report on the status of whether the mechanism has reached full operating capability by 15 October 2017”.

Against this backdrop of political paralysis, UNISFA continues to maintain law and order and a measure of stability in Abyei. This stability has, however, been challenged in recent months, with UNISFA reporting an increase in criminal activity, including cattle rustling, carjacking, robbery, and in May a grenade attack in the Amiet market, a commercial hub, that injured several civilians. UNISFA has reportedly facilitated discussions to defuse tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka ethnic groups and has supported the return of stolen cattle as part of these efforts. UNISFA is continuing its disarmament activities and announced the destruction of 25 weapons and over 470 rounds of ammunition in June. 

There has been no progress in agreeing on the removal of armed Sudanese police from around the Diffra oil facility, as required by several Security Council resolutions that have called for the demilitarisation of Abyei (with the exception of UNISFA peacekeepers and the yet-to-be-established Abyei Police Service).

Key Issues

The key issue facing the Council is whether Sudan and South Sudan have responded to the deadline for progress in implementing the JBVMM and the full implementation of the 20 June 2011 agreement.

A related issue is whether the Council should move to add any additional pressure on Sudan and South Sudan in the absence of such progress.

Options

One option is for the Council to issue a presidential statement reiterating its intent to alter the UNISFA mandate should the parties fail to demonstrate a clear commitment to resolving the current impasse.

Another option is for the Council to take a more hopeful approach, recognising that meetings between the parties are ongoing and reiterating the Council’s willingness to remain engaged.

Council Dynamics

Negotiations on the renewal of UNISFA’s mandate in May revealed a divide in the Council between the US and Ethiopia, the primary troop-contributing country for UNISFA, on the current mandate and troop ceiling for the mission. The US appears to have been concerned that UNISFA is persisting longer than intended for an interim force, and that Sudan and South Sudan are taking advantage of the relative stability UNISFA provides to delay attempts to resolve the status of Abyei while they focus on respective domestic issues. During the May negotiations, Ethiopia, supported by a number of other Council members, argued that a reduction of the troop ceiling would undermine the effectiveness of the mission. This difference in perspective is likely to be reflected in any meetings in August on Sudan/South Sudan.

More broadly, Council members have for some time recognised that the situation in Abyei and the wider border-related issues between Sudan and South Sudan cannot be resolved in isolation from the internal conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan. Notwithstanding the current focus on the JBVMM, with neither party ready to advance the political process the Council continues to devote only minimal time and focus to Abyei.

The US is the penholder on Abyei.

UN DOCUMENTS ON SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN 

Security Council Resolutions
15 May 2017 S/RES/2352 This was a resolution that extended UNISFA’s mandate until 15 November 2017.
14 December 2011 S/RES/2024 This resolution added a border-monitoring support role to UNISFA’s mandate.
Secretary-General's Reports
11 April 2017 S/2017/312 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei.
5 April 2017 S/2017/293 This was a special report of the Secretary-General on the review of UNISFA’s mandate.
12 October 2016 S/2016/864 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abyei.

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