6010th Meeting (AM)
With Referendum Approaching, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Says International Assistance 'Remains Vital' to Ensure Stability Post-2011
In recent months, implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Southern Sudan had contributed to the normalization of the area and the return of displaced persons, but the parties, with the assistance of the international community, had much work to do to ensure lasting stability, Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council this morning.
"There is an urgent need to focus on the issues that will enable the parties to reach the referendum and ensure stability post-2011," Mr. Mulet said in a briefing to the 15-member Council that introduced the Secretary-General's latest report on the topic. "While they will have to bear the brunt of the work, international assistance will remain vital in numerous areas, including disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating parties and assisting in confidence-building, mediation, human rights and capacity-building."
He said the security situation had remained relatively calm in Southern Sudan and the transitional areas -- including in Abyei, the oil-rich area that saw a resurgence of fighting in May -- and no major ceasefire violations had occurred. There was slow but continuing progress in implementation of CPA and there were major outstanding challenges, but none of the parties could afford to return to armed conflict.
The two parties to CPA -- the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- had cooperated on a daily basis in Government institutions and security mechanisms, but continued to postpone implementation of the more difficult aspects of the Agreement, he said. The Council of States and the Southern Sudan legislative Assembly had held their first-ever joint session in Juba, where the significance of the popular consultations that would precede the 2011 referendum as well as adhering to its final result was underlined.
The official launch of the Sudan People's Initiative for a political settlement for Darfur had been a significant development that, if inclusive, could go a long way in addressing the concerns of Darfurians, Mr. Mulet said. The Initiative, now renamed the Sudan People's Forum (SPF), had formed seven committees dealing with such issues as development and reconstruction, security, internally displaced persons, refugees and voluntary returns. SPF had received the final reports of all seven committees and its Presidential Board would prepare final recommendations by the second week of November.
He went on to say that preparation for and the holding of free and fair elections would be a major challenge. Apart from passing the electoral law, there had been little progress. For instance, the nine-member National Elections Commission (NEC) had not been formed, neither had the Political Parties Affairs Council. The SPLM/NCP High-Level Political Committee, however, had recently discussed the tabling of six laws in the National Assembly, including the Press and Media Law, the Referendum Act and the National Security Act.
During his visit in October, Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy had met with officials from the Government of Southern Sudan, who had acknowledged that they would need to agree on a date for elections. NCP had made clear that it expected the elections to take place before the July 2009 deadline.
The situation in Abyei had improved considerably, although implementation of the Abyei road map was behind schedule, he said. Important progress had been made on the security front, as troops from both sides had mostly withdrawn from the mutually agreed area. The newly formed Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) battalion had taken charge of security, while a Joint Integrated Police Unit was now patrolling and manning checkpoints in Abyei town. In order to sustain progress, however, the Government and donor community must support the development of the rule of law in Abyei.
Although the Abyei civilian administration had been appointed, it had not yet been put in place, he said. Nevertheless, the relative stability in the road map area had encouraged displaced civilians to start returning home. The United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) enjoyed full freedom of movement in that area, enabling it to monitor the situation and providing it with the means to better predict and prevent conflict.
Mr. Mulet said the appointment of the presiding arbitrator of the Abyei Arbitration Panel, which would decide on the boundaries of the area, had begun the six-week process for the parties to present their arguments on the issue. The Panel was expected to issue its final decision by June 2009. In addition, the demarcation of the 1-1-56 border was a key element of CPA implementation and a determining factor for the division of oil wealth, the northern boundary of Abyei and final redeployment. He added that, following a number of delays, it was still unclear when the Border Commission report might be issued, but it was important for the parties to start discussing future arrangements.
Regarding the potential for conflict in Southern Kordofan, another of the three transitional areas straddling the north/south border, he said that UNMIS had pointed to positive developments, including the recent opening of previously-closed areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The Mission was closely monitoring the situation, however.
The request by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir had become a focus of political life and could potentially derail the CPA process, he said. While UNMIS would continue to ensure security measures were in place, in the event of an indictment, he was concerned by suggestions of an uncontrolled reaction to an indictment by the population against the Mission, and by statements of Government officials of an intention to expel United Nations personnel that were thought to have cooperated with the Court.
He expected the Government to abide by the status-of-forces agreement and to ensure the safety, security and protection of United Nations premises and staff, as well as the full support of the Council in relation to the issue.
Following Mr. Mulet's briefing, the representatives of Libya and Costa Rica took the floor. While welcoming progress made in various areas, Libya's representative noted that redeployment of SPLM forces had been modest, barely reaching 10 per cent. As the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme was an important element in implementation of CPA, he welcomed the holding by donor countries of a round-table meeting this month to address its financing.
He said the Council, when considering the situation, should take into account the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate human rights violations committed since 2003, and should also actively support the Sudan Peoples' Forum. In addition, because an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court against President Al-Bashir might have profound consequences for the work of the United Nations in the Sudan, he called on the Council to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which allowed it to delay prosecutions of the Court for 12 months through a resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter.
Costa Rica's representative also welcomed the progress in the implementation of CPA, including the request for United Nations elections assistance, which was an opportunity for the Organization to play an important role in favour of free and fair elections. He also welcomed progress in redeployment around Abyei, although it was important that the parties allowed the conclusion of the report on the violence there, so that action could be taken against its perpetrators.
Welcoming actions to assist child soldiers, he was nevertheless concerned that there were still many children in prison, with some condemned to death. Regarding the International Criminal Court's indictment proceedings, he called on the Sudan to respect the neutrality of the judicial system and cooperate with it. He added that the humanitarian situation, despite improvement, showed that it was time for the Council to develop clear standards for the protection of civilians.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the Secretary-General's report on Sudan (document S/2008/662), which provides an assessment of the overall situation in the country since his previous report of 23 July (document S/2008/485), as well as an update on the activities of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) through 4 October. It notes that a lack of mutual trust between the signatories remains the main challenge to implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the long-running north-south civil war in the Sudan, hampering the achievement of major pending benchmarks.
The Secretary-General urges the leaders of both the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to make an effort to improve their relationship, saying the "onus of improving mutual trust and confidence lies with the leadership of both sides". One of the things he says would significantly contribute to confidence between the parties is successful implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.
He adds, however, that disarmament and demobilization alone can not lead to a durable peace, stressing the need to provide ex-combatants with the opportunities they need to successfully reintegrate into society. In this regard, he urges donors to be generous with their pledges at a round-table conference to be held in November.
Among positive achievements in recent months, the Secretary-General notes the agreement reached by the parties to resolve the conflict over the disputed area of Abyei, the oil-rich region where fighting broke out in May. The agreement includes the successful redeployment by the parties of most of their forces out of the interim borders, the naming of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the interim administration, the appointment of the remaining members of the Abyei Executive and Area Councils, and the ongoing deployment of the Abyei Joint Integrated Unit and the Joint Integrated Police Unit.
Noting that the process of arbitration on a final settlement of the issue is under way in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Secretary-General urges the parties to immediately redeploy their remaining forces out of the interim borders and to set up the interim administration. He also urges that agreement be reached quickly on the report of the Border Commission, so that the demarcation process can begin as soon as possible.
The Secretary-General also notes that voluntary returns to Abyei remained "slow but steady". As of 1 October, between 12,000 and 16,000 of the estimated 50,000 people uprooted from their homes due to the fighting that preceded the Abyei agreement had returned to the area.
There has also been progress in the electoral process, he continues in the report, including the completion of the census enumeration and the passage of the electoral law. Negotiations to appoint members of the National Elections Commission are under way. The United Nations has received a request for electoral assistance from the Government of Southern Sudan and a needs-assessment mission will be visiting the country for that purpose.
The Secretary-General adds that, in 2011, the people of Abyei and Southern Sudan will exercise their right of self-determination to vote for either unity or separation. Whatever the verdict, he encourages the parties to initiate discussions on a long-term wealth-sharing agreement beyond 2011 for the sake of peace and the people of the Sudan.
He says that efforts by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek an indictment against the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, on genocide and war crimes charges could have the potential to "profoundly affect" the United Nations work in the country.
"The Government of National Unity assured the United Nations that it would continue to cooperate with both UNMIS and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). However, senior Government officials issued public warnings of possible serious consequences for UNMIS if the President is indeed indicted."
The Secretary-General noted that both he and his Special Representative received similar warnings directly. They have reiterated to the Government that the United Nations would respect the independence of the judicial process and that UNMIS would remain committed to implementing its mandate in support of the peace process in the Sudan. He urges the Sudanese Government to cooperate with the Court and put in place an effective judicial and political process at the national level.
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