Distinguished Council Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council for the first time in my new capacity as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. This briefing concerns progress in the implementation of Resolution 2046, which relates to outstanding bilateral issues between the Sudan and South Sudan and the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
This briefing is taking place in a context marked by uncertainty and yet unresolved internal difficulties following the coup in the Sudan on 25 October 2021, which did not make it possible to plan any meetings of the joint mechanisms between Sudan and South Sudan that were intended for the beginning of 2022. With the removal of the civilian government in Khartoum that had been engaging its counterpart in Juba, the momentum towards the resolution of outstanding issues was suddenly dropped and the countries will have to start reviewing them afresh, though in my recent visit to the Sudan and South Sudan, the Chairman of the Sovereign Council – General Burhan and his Deputy – General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo informed me that preparations were ongoing to engage their South Sudanese counterparts on these matters, which has been confirmed by the authorities I met here in South Sudan. As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, the reporting period also witnessed significant violence last week between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya in Abyei. If anything, it reminds us of the need to focus on settling the final status of Abyei.
In South Sudan, President Kiir made appointments to the command structure of the Necessary Unified Forces on 12 April that will pave the way for the graduation and redeployment of forces that had completed their training as part of a new national army. This followed an agreement on 3 April between the President, the First Vice-President Riek Machar, and the Fifth Vice-President Abdelbagi, as commanders-in-chief of the three-armed parties of the 2018 Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS). The development was the outcome of Sudanese mediation efforts led by the Chairperson of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, General Burhan and his Deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. As a result, tension between President Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar which was also manifested on the ground by fighting between their troops in Upper Nile and Unity states and the surrounding of Machar’s residence in Juba by the military and National Security personnel on 27 March this year has been dissipated.
An obvious casualty of the coup in Sudan was the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM), one of the rare mechanisms bringing the two countries together to review outstanding political and security issues. Its last meeting of 8-9 September 2021 in Juba had scheduled the next meeting for Khartoum in the second week of January 2022. Not only did the meeting not hold but action has not been taken on the other decisions reached at the Juba sitting. Regarding the call for the two countries to withdraw their forces from the Abyei box by 31 December 2021, the Senior Leadership I met in Sudan insists that they have withdrawn all their forces and called on South Sudan to do the same for them to re-activate meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC). This assertion by the Government of Sudan is challenged by the Government of South Sudan. The lack of progress on South Sudan’s commitment made at the JPSM to mediate between the communities in Aweil towards re-activation of the three dormant Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism locations is also of concern. No new date has been fixed for the next JPSM meeting; I was however pleased to hear that the parties are in contact regarding the organization of an AJOC meeting soon.
Thanks to the easing of restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to travel to both countries not only to introduce myself to the national authorities but also to engage with them in person. In Khartoum, I met with the Chairman and Deputy Chair of the Sovereign Council, the Acting Minister of Defence and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs from 17-19 April. And since 19 April, I have been in Juba, from where I am addressing you, and had fruitful discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence and the Minister for East African Affairs and Deputy Head of the Abyei committee. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet President Kiir, who is not in the country at the moment.
From these discussions, I have understood that bilateral relations between the Sudan and South Sudan are good. The two countries have continued to engage in high-level visits on each other’s territory. Although President Kiir’s last visit to Khartoum was in 2018, Sudanese leaders have continued to visit Juba. On 17 March, General Burhan was in Juba to address the tensions between President Kiir and First Vice-President Machar, on account of their disagreement over the sharing of positions within the leadership structure of the future national army. The proposal submitted on 18 March, as Chairperson of IGAD, was welcomed by President Kiir. For its part, South Sudan continued to follow up on the implementation by the Sudanese parties of the Juba Peace Agreement which it mediated. President Kiir’s Security Adviser, Tut Gatluak, and other senior South Sudanese ministers shuttled between Juba and Khartoum throughout the reporting period to facilitate a solution between the military and civilian components of the transitional government and prevent the collapse of the agreement.
Although President Kiir and General Burhan did not dwell on the issue of Abyei, they agreed to focus cooperation on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, starting with an approach to peace through the development of ‘unitized’ oil fields, including in the Abyei area. Pending details to be worked out by the respective foreign ministries of what ‘unitization’ entails, the hope is that the proposed approach to peace may be a starting point not only for addressing the recurrent violence in the Abyei area but also towards the settlement of the final status of Abyei.
Khartoum also continued to play a positive role in seeking peaceful means to resolve intra-party problems experienced by the South Sudanese parties. On 16 January, it hosted the signing of an agreement between the break-away faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) known as the Kitgwang Declaration and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Government (SPLM-in-Government). Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual and his deputy, Gen. Johnson Olony, signed for the Kitgwang Declaration, while Mr. Tut Gatluak signed for the SPLM-in-Government. The agreement provides for amnesty for the Kitgwang faction, the recommitment of the parties to the ceasefire agreement under the Khartoum Declaration of 2018, and the establishment of a coordination office in Juba.
In the same spirit, South Sudan continued to exert efforts to convince Abdel Wahid Al Nur, leader of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), to join the Sudanese peace process. So far, the efforts have not paid off. On 10 March, Minni Minawi, leader of the other faction of the SLM/A and Governor of Darfur State, visited Juba, ostensibly to meet with Al Nur. The meeting failed to take place, as Al Nur accused Minawi of supporting the coup of 25 October. While recommitting to its unilateral cessation of hostilities, SLM/A-Al Nur has reiterated its refusal to join the Juba-mediated peace process for Sudan and renewed its call for an all-inclusive Sudanese initiative that would comprehensively address Sudan’s multiple problems.
Mister President, Members of Council
Let me now turn to developments concerning the Two Areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. I note with regret that efforts deployed by the South Sudan mediation committee to facilitate the resumption of negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Al Hilu SPLM-North faction have not been successful. You will recall that the talks between them were suspended on 15 June 2021 for two weeks to allow the parties time to consult their constituencies on the outstanding issues. The SPLM-North Al Hilu condemned the military coup and called on its members to support the anti-coup demonstrations. Meanwhile, the Malik Agar faction of the SPLM-North, which was one of the signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement with the Government of Sudan, has remained within the transitional institutions despite the arrest, imprisonment, and subsequent release of its deputy chairperson, Yassir Aman, by the military in the aftermath of the coup.
Clearly, the coup has had a negative effect on progress on the bilateral initiatives which the two countries had started deepening and which they are now trying to re-boot. It is however gratifying that, while each of them is grappling with its internal conflict, they continue to complement one another in the search for peace, and to build on the progress achieved so far. They both emphasise the need to scale up humanitarian assistance to displaced and vulnerable communities. They both recognise the need for peace on their territories and in the region, which should enable them to foster cooperation as they entertain good neighbourly relations. My Office will continue to engage with the authorities of both countries and, as appropriate, with key regional actors, including the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to encourage them to defuse tensions, advance the implementation of all cooperation agreements and consolidate their improved bilateral relations. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga for the commitment he demonstrated to his role and to peace and security in the region.
Thank you, Mister President