1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 28 of Security Council resolution 2318 (2016), in which the Council requested me to continue to inform it of progress in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and to bring to its immediate attention any serious violation of the 20 June 2011 Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei Area (S/2011/384, annex). The present report provides an update on the situation in Abyei and on the operations of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism since the issuance of my previous report (S/2016/864) on 12 October 2016, and covers the period until 14 April 2017.
2. During the reporting period, a strategic review of the mandate of UNISFA was undertaken pursuant to paragraph 29 of Security Council resolution 2318 (2016) and presented on 5 April 2017 (see S/2017/293).
3. The security situation in the Abyei Area is generally calm; however, in the absence of progress in the implementation of the 20 June 2011 Agreement and discussions on the final status of the territory, intercommunal tensions and the proliferation of arms present a continued risk. During meetings of the joint security committee with both the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya communities during the reporting period, UNISFA received reports of the presence of armed elements in the Abyei Area. The Mission responded by enhancing its presence in the affected areas through supplementary patrols. There have been no reports of any Sudan Armed Forces or Sudan People’s Liberation Army presence in the Abyei Area.
4. During the reporting period, around 35,000 Misseriya nomads arrived in the Abyei Area as part of their annual southwards migration, which usually occurs from October to mid-May. The movement has proceeded without any major incident thanks to the Mission’s proactive conflict prevention and mitigation strategy. UNISFA maintains corridors to permit the Misseriya and their cattle to move through the Abyei Area, allowing the two communities to share grazing and water resources and, in so doing, preventing intercommunal tensions. Robust monitoring, in particular of flashpoint areas, has been the foundation of this strategy, with patrols during the day and night and armed elements being prevented from entering the area.
5. No major security incidents have taken place thus far and, while some instances of cattle rustling have occurred, both the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities have largely returned the cattle taken and compensation has been arranged through local peace committees. In order to ensure security, UNISFA deployed additional troops at important locations along migration route corridors: Noong and Alal in the central sector and Dungoup in the southern sector. In addition, the Mission controlled Misseriya access to the south-western and south-eastern parts of the Abyei Area. The Mission also maintained frequent engagement with both communities during the migration season through joint security committees at the sector level, as well as community-level engagement.
6. For a second consecutive dry season, UNISFA relaxed the implementation of the disengagement line. This flexibility has been enabled by the continued adherence of the two communities to the agreement of 24 March 2016 at Noong, whereby the Ngok Dinka allowed the Misseriya and their cattle access to water and pasture in areas inhabited by the Ngok Dinka. The Mission’s success in managing the disengagement line has encouraged the return of the Ngok Dinka, with new settlements observed during the reporting period in the areas north of the Kiir/Bahr-al-Arab River.
7. Criminality remained largely intra-ethnic; the majority of reported incidents were petty crime. There were also some cases of armed theft and carjacking. Over the past year, the central sector has developed into a hub for criminal activities, with a rise in the economic importance of the Amiet common market and in the north-south movement of traders along the all-weather road from Diffra in the northern sector to Amiet and further southwards to Abyei in the central sector. In response, UNISFA troops enhanced their presence along the critical Farouk-Diffra-Amiet-Abyei-Agok axis to deter criminal activity. On 19 October, armed assailants shot and killed a Ngok Dinka man and seriously wounded a woman. On 17 November, the Amiet market joint traditional court found that the available evidence was insufficient to convict two Misseriya accused of the attack. The two were handed over to the Misseriya traditional chief. UNISFA has increased its security presence at the Amiet common market while encouraging the two communities to cooperate with the Mission on addressing criminality.
8. On 21 December at night, in Noong, assailants fired two rocket-propelled grenades, injuring five people, including two women and a three-year-old child. On 9 January, UNISFA troops prevented violence by intercepting around 10 armed Misseriya near Nainai in the central sector. In the ensuing exchange of fire, one Misseriya was killed. The timing of these incidents suggested that the aim of these armed elements was to influence the deliberations at the meetings of intercommunity traditional leaders held on 30 December and 12 January.
9. Despite enhanced security at critical road crossings by UNISFA, a World Health Organization-Sudan vehicle was carjacked by armed assailants on 17 January north of Diffra. Another carjacking attempt on contractors for the International Organization for Migration travelling from Diffra towards Goli in the northern sector on 17 February resulted in the death of a contractor and the wounding of his driver. Following the attack, UNISFA further reinforced its procedures to ensure the safety of its staff and workers connected with the projects of UNISFA and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes in the Abyei Area by requiring force protection for all movement north of Dokura/Rumajak in the central sector and between Abyei and Agok in the southern sector. The completion of the perimeter wall decreased theft within the UNISFA and the United Nations common premises compound. Only three instances of petty theft occurred during the reporting period.