1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 33 of Security Council resolution 2497 (2019), in which the Council requested to be informed of progress in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). It covers the period since the issuance of my previous report (S/2020/308), from 16 April to 15 October 2020. The report provides updates on, inter alia, political developments, the security situation, the operating environment and intercommunal dynamics. The report also provides updates on progress in the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.
2. The reporting period was marked by a continued improvement in bilateral relations between the Sudan and South Sudan. On 24 September 2020, the two countries agreed to form a joint technical committee to resume oil production in U nity State and at other key oil fields. The South Sudanese authorities also facilitated the negotiation process that led to the initialling, on 31 August, of a peace agreement between the transitional Government of the Sudan, the Sudanese Revolutionary Fro nt and the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minawi. The peace agreement was signed in Juba on 3 October.
3. In parallel, in Juba, on 27 August 2020, senior officials of the Sudan and South Sudan expressed their willingness to relaunch the political proce ss on the final status of Abyei. At the request of the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, the Presidential Adviser for National Security, Tut Gatluak, the Minister for East African Affairs, Deng Alor, and the Co-Chair for South Sudan of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, Deng Arop, travelled to Khartoum during the third week of September and met with the Sudanese authorities to discuss the final status of Abyei and other border areas.
4. Notwithstanding the continued rapprochement between the Sudan an d South Sudan, the peace process has made little progress in Abyei. The main developments at the local level were the appointment by the authorities in Juba and Khartoum of the countries’ respective chief administrators. On 29 June 2020, the President of South Sudan appointed Lieutenant General Kuol Diem Kuol as Chief Administrator for the Abyei Special Administrative Area. On 20 August, the Chair of the Sovereign Council of the Sudan, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, signed a decree appointing Gumaa Dawood Musa Hamdan as Chief Administrator for the Abyei Administrative Area. This is the first time that Abyei has two chief administrators.
5. As part of his familiarization tour, the acting Head of Mission/Force Commander visited Khartoum from 6 to 10 September 2020. In addition to introducing himself and the incoming Chief of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism to relevant counterparts, he discussed issues raised during the expanded Joint Political and Security Mechanism meeting held in Juba on 19 February. These included the operationalization of the Athony airstrip, measures to enhance security in Abyei and the resumption of the meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee.
6. On 8 September 2020, the acting Head of Mission/Force Commander met with the Chair of the Sovereign Council of the Sudan. The Chair welcomed the role played by UNISFA in ensuring security and stability in the Abyei Area and gave assurances that UNISFA had the support of the Chief Administrator appointed by the Sudan for its efforts on the ground. He also noted that the appointment of a civilian Deputy Head of Mission would go against the spirit of the 2011 Agreement, as would the operationalization of the Athony airstrip, and announced that a team would be established to study the matter.
7. On 8 and 9 September 2020, the acting Head of Mission/Force Commander met with the new Co-Chair for the Sudan of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, retired Major General Ezedin Osman. The Co-Chair gave the assurance that he fully supported the rapid resumption of Committee meetings and of the peace conferences that UNISFA had proposed to organize at the local level with representatives of the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities.
8. The acting Head of Mission/Force Commander visited Juba from 21 to 25 September 2020, where he interacted with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Beatrice Wani Noah, the Minister of Defence, Angelina Teny, and the Chief of Staff of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces and the South Sudanese Deputy Co-Chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee. UNISFA welcomed the discussions being held in Khartoum between the parties on the future of Abyei and noted its continued availability to facilitate similar discussions at the local level. The interlocutors expressed confidence that the visit by the Presidential Adviser for National Security and the Minister for East African Affairs to Khartoum would pave the way for a timely agreement on the final status of Abyei and other border areas, including the 14 Mile Area. In their view, with the signing of the peace agreement in Juba on 3 October, the conditions were in place for fruitful discussions on Abyei to be held.
9. UNISFA reminded its interlocutors of the decisions arising from the meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism held on 19 February 2020, some of which were pending, including the call for the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee to resume regular meetings. UNISFA noted that some of those pending decisions could usefully be addressed within the Committee, as could more recent matters, in particular the appointment of two chief administrators for Abyei and the need to agree on how they would work together in the interest of the local communities. UNISFA also reiterated its invitation to South Sudan to take part, alongside Sudanese counterparts, in the development of a road map for the establishment of the Abyei police service in early October. Lastly, UNISFA announced its intention to convene a peace meeting before the end of the year between community representatives in Abyei, in part to ensure a peaceful upcoming migration cycle, and called upon the parties to support those efforts.
10. On 29 September 2020, the acting Head of Mission/Force Commander engaged virtually with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, to debrief him on the security and political situation in Abyei and on his meetings in Khartoum and Juba. The peace process was also discussed, as was the need for enhanced engagement with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel.