Sudan and South Sudan - Security Council Open VTC

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28-Apr-2020 01:40:28
Citing escalating violence, challenging landscape in Abyei area, Peacekeeping Chief recommends Security Council extend United Nations interim force.

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Despite improving relations between Sudan and South Sudan, progress is unlikely in determining the final status of the Abyei Area in the short to medium term, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council during a 28 April videoconference meeting[*].

Briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2020/308), Jean-Pierre Lacroix said a volatile security situation, rising intercommunal tensions and an increase in the presence of armed groups are part of a challenging landscape, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, he called for the continued support of the Security Council for the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a six-month-long extension of the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), until 15 October 2020.

“While months ahead will no doubt pose new unprecedented challenges as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, UNISFA leadership will continue to engage with the Governments of the Sudan and South Sudan to facilitate the implementation of the pending aspects of their previous agreements and the UNISFA mandate,” he said. “UNISFA will also continue to play a stabilizing role in the Abyei Area and along the border regions.”

Outlining recent developments in implementing the mission mandate, including its support to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, he pointed at episodes of heightened tensions between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya communities, an increase in criminality and the presence of armed elements in the Interim Security Force’s area of responsibility. UNISFA troops have also been subject to attacks by armed elements, including an incident on 24 April.

Regarding a major escalation of violence between communities near Kolom, he said the mission has established a joint investigative team to conduct a preliminary investigation. The focus is on incidents in January resulting in the killing of three Misseriya at Nai Nai by attackers suspected to be Ngok Dinka, and 33 Ngok Dinka killed by Misseriya armed elements, in what is believed to be a retaliatory attack.

UNISFA engagement with local communities has contributed to easing tensions, he said, and meetings in March and April of the two groups at a traditional leaders’ conference resulted in steps towards peace. “Our paramount concern is to sustain the positive dialogue restored between the two communities,” he said, adding that once the investigation is completed, he will discuss possible future steps forward with the mission Force Commander.

Citing several other positive developments, he said that UNISFA held consultations on 4 March with Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to resolve the issues of the Athony airstrip and the appointment of a Deputy Head of Mission. The Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism made some progress towards reaching resolution 2497 (2019) benchmarks, including the deployment of national monitors.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays, he said, including the suspension of further steps in police unit deployment. Meanwhile, UNISFA is working with authorities on providing assistance to a response plan, including community outreach.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, said urgent external support will be needed to help Khartoum and Juba offset such current obstacles as the COVID-19 pandemic, plummeting oil prices, a desert locust invasion and climatic vagaries. “The pandemic will also likely have a negative effect on the peace processes in the two countries, including by significantly slowing down engagements, he said, noting that his office is working with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Secretariat on a regional strategy.

Briefing on the implementation of resolution 2046 (2012), covering outstanding bilateral issues between Khartoum and Juba and the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, he said developments since October 2019 include undeniable and commendable progress with both countries consolidating their improved relations, notably by the constructive roles played in each other’s peace process. In addition, cooperation in oil management between the two countries has continued to remain strong, with South Sudan steadily making payments relating to the Transitional Financial Arrangement.

At the same time, he said, the Prime Minister of Sudan continues to try defusing tensions and finding consensus between political players in Khartoum and seeks to deliver on his commitment to peace through negotiations with the armed movements with some talks held virtually, given COVID-19 restrictions. Negotiations with Darfur armed movements delivered a major outcome, as agreement was reached with the Government on 11 February to establish a special court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur and to seek justice through the International Criminal Court, but grave concerns remain about the absence from the talks of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)/Abdul Wahid al-Nur. In addition, talks with SPLM-North (al-Hilu) do not appear to have made any headway.

Despite their support to each other, he said, both countries have had minimal bilateral engagements within the framework of their cooperation agreements but continued to focus on their internal conflicts. However, they have stopped accusing each other of supporting or hosting their respective rebels. Instead, they are mutually reinforcing each other’s efforts to end internal conflicts.

While both countries are careful to avoid dealing with any points of conflict amid the challenges of their respective transitions and COVID-19, he said it is hoped that the rapprochement and consolidated relations will subsequently provide the incentive for them to address the outstanding issues under the cooperation agreements, including the situation in Abyei.

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2543927