Recent flare-up of violence threatens apparent calm between Sudan, South Sudan, speakers warn, as Security Council considers mandate of Abyei security force.
Juba Representative Blames Abrupt Ethiopian Withdrawal as Khartoum Delegate Voices Concern over Neighbour's Troop Presence
With the final status of Abyei still unresolved, an alarming recent flare-up of violence killing civilians and peacekeepers threatens the apparent calm between Sudan and South Sudan, speakers told the Council today, as that body also looked towards a possible future renewal of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) mandate.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, briefed the Council by video-teleconference, saying that that whereas the overall security situation in the Abyei Administrative Area is calm, the deficit of trust between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities remains of great concern — with intercommunal violence resulting in the deaths of 29 people since last October. While UNISFA is carrying out more frequent and longer-range patrols, it is first and foremost for the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to renew their engagement on the final status of Abyei, he emphasized.
He cautioned that there has been no progress on the deployment of the three formed police units mandated by the Council, with the humanitarian situation having deteriorated since he last briefed members. Humanitarian workers went from servicing 103,000 vulnerable people to a stunning 240,000, with 26 people killed and many more injured in violence between different Dinka communities in February and March. Two humanitarian workers also lost their lives, he noted.
He noted there has also been no progress on re-operationalizing some Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanisms team sites after UNISFA was forced to relocate in 2021 — stressing that South Sudan must enable the Joint Mechanism's return as soon as possible. Recalling that there were three direct attacks against UNISFA patrols in the past two months alone — in which one peacekeeper was injured — he demanded an immediate end to such direct, serious violence and called upon the relevant authorities to investigate those incidents.
Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, briefed members on implementation of resolution 2046 (2012) in the context of the uncertainty and unresolved internal difficulties that followed the 25 October 2021 coup in Sudan. She said the removal of the civilian Government in Khartoum halted the momentum towards resolving outstanding issues, adding that the Joint Political and Security Mechanism — one of the rare mechanisms bringing the two countries together to review outstanding political and security issues — was an obvious casualty of that coup. She went on to note the exchanges of high-level visits between Khartoum and Juba. "I have understood that bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan are good," she said, expressing hope that the approach may both address the recurrent violence in Abyei and lead to settlement of the area's final status.
In the ensuing debate, delegates noted the dangers that renewed clashes pose to a fragile region.
The representative of the United States emphasized that a long-term solution can only be worked out through diplomacy. Expressing regret that no meetings of any joint institutions or mechanisms have been held since the last briefing in 2021, she stressed that resignation to the status quo is simply unacceptable. She went on to urge the appointment of a civilian deputy head of mission for UNISFA, improvement of its relations with communities on the ground, and the deployment of more police to address criminality. Calling upon Sudan to issue visas for United Nations personnel, she urged UNISFA to support community dialogue through outreach to local communities, explaining that many people do not understand the mission's mandate and have unrealistic expectations. Sudan must also allow the Force access to Anthony Airfield, which is necessary for the safety and security of peacekeepers, she added.
Gabon's representative, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, underlined the need for the African Union to play a high-level role in defining Abyei's final status, with the essential support of the international community.
Ireland's representative welcomed the recent issuance of temporary visas for two human rights officers after their long-delayed deployment to Abyei.
Delegates further addressed the key role of UNISFA in promoting intercommunal peace talks.
South Sudan's representative said the recent attacks can be directly linked to the security vacuum created by the abrupt departure of Ethiopian forces, emphasizing that the Misseriya are keen to exploit it. He went on to state that the Security Council, the African Union and IGAD must engage the parties in finalizing Abyei's status to create the necessary security and improved relations for which the Ngok Dinka have been longing. While reconciliation is an important aspect of humanity, he cautioned it must be genuine, address core issues and ultimately aim to reach a lasting solution between parties and communities. He warned, however, that reconciliation is difficult to realize in the face of continuous attacks, loss of life, displacement and looting without accountability for the perpetrators thereof. As such, South Sudan questions what the Council means when it repeatedly calls for reconciliation, he said.
Sudan's representative recalled Khartoum's successful mediation, which resulted in the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. He went on to affirm that Sudan is dedicated to accelerating an agreement on Abyei's final status, while expressing concern over the death of a peacekeeper that led to the withdrawal of teams working for the Joint Border and Verification Monitoring Mechanism. Recalling that Sudan has called for easing tensions without unilateral actions that could jeopardize UNISFA's activities — since Abyei must be free of any armed presence — he said it is, therefore, unfortunate that South Sudanese armed forces are within the buffer zone.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, India, United Arab Emirates, France, Brazil, Russian Federation, China, Mexico, Albania, and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:40 a.m.