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Statement by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Hanna Tetteh

Mr. President,

Distinguished Council Members, 

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the progress in implementing Resolution 2046, which relates to outstanding bilateral issues between Sudan and South Sudan and the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. And many thanks to my colleague, USG Lacroix, for the critical issues highlighted in his brief.

The unprecedented conflict that erupted in Sudan on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is now entering its 7th month with significant humanitarian, security, economic and political consequences that are a matter of deep concern among the South Sudanese political leadership.

Indeed, in addition to thousands of Sudanese fleeing the conflict, more than 353,000 registered returnees and refugees from Sudan have crossed into South Sudan in a country where 2/3 of the population is already in dire need of humanitarian assistance. With the military developments in Sudan, and most recently, RSF’s seizure of Belila Airport and Belila’s oil field, the military confrontation between SAF and RSF is getting closer to the boundary with Abyei and border with Abyei and South Sudan. Given the proximity of most Misserya groups to the RSF and the recruitment campaigns by the warring parties, these military developments are likely to have adverse consequences on the Abyei’s social fabric and the already fragile coexistence between the Misserya and the Ngok Dinka.

On the political front, given the risks posed by the Sudanese conflict on South Sudan, the Government of South Sudan continues to engage with regional leaders and the warring parties to support efforts to de-escalate the conflict, secure a ceasefire and promote dialogue. On 4 September, Gen. Abdel-Fattah al Burhan, Chairperson of the Sudan Transitional Sovereign Council, visited Juba and discussed efforts to resolve the conflict. Other Sudanese stakeholders, notably Malik Agar, the Deputy Chair of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council and RSF leaders, have also met with the South Sudanese leadership in Juba as part of the South Sudanese mediation efforts.

President Kiir, who has been actively engaging with Egyptian authorities on a political solution to the Sudanese conflict, offered to mediate between the RSF and SAF and proposed face-to-face talks in Juba, but this did not materialise. Meanwhile, South Sudan continues to publicly exercise neutrality amidst concerns over the security of oil installations and pipeline used to export South Sudanese oil through Port Sudan.

As a guarantor of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), South Sudan has also been concerned about the Agreement’s relevance. In this regard, the Government of South Sudan held a consultative meeting with the parties to the JPA between 24 and 25 October to evaluate the implementation of the JPA and consult with the parties on peace negotiations between the RSF and SAF. The RSF was invited but did not participate in the consultations. The participants called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the Sudan and urged the warring parties to resolve the crisis peacefully. On 29 October, a group of JPA signatories issued a follow up statement, condemning RSF abuses and underscoring the SAF’s legitimate defence of the country. However, the Justice and Equality Movement in Sudan Liberation Army faction subsequently distanced themselves from the statement. The Presidential Adviser on Security Affairs, Tut Gatluak, stated President Kiir had directed all relevant institutions to prepare the ground for possible peace talks between the RSF and the SAF.

Mr. President, distinguished members of the Council,

With the conflict in Sudan, the conditions are not conducive for talks on the final status of Abyei. Indeed, as my colleague, USG Lacroix mentioned, the progress that was made, unfortunately, has not been something that we can build upon. Key Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders have not expressed desire to engage on these topics. With its military offensive in West Kordofan, RSF is getting closer to Abyei, controlling parts of the border with South Sudan. And previously, Gen. Hamedti was indeed the head of the Sudan’s Abyei Committee, and was engaging with the UN and the South Sudanese counterpart on the status of Abyei.

Nevertheless, representatives of the Abyei communities, very much aware of the adverse consequences of the Sudanese conflict on the prospect of resuming talks on Abyei, expressed the need to maintain the Abyei issue on the agenda of the United Nations and the African Union, specifically the two Councils. The South Sudanese Abyei High-Level Committee, led by Hon. Deng Alor Koul, met with me in Addis Ababa on 4 October, together with members of the South Sudan Abyei Committee, proposed that Abyei’s final status could be part of a broader framework of political negotiations addressing the Sudanese conflict.

The Committee also reiterated its commitment to implement the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) proposal on the final status of Abyei. Yet, as the AUHIP’s proposal has not been accepted by the Sudanese authorities, any progress on the final status of Abyei would require, as I impressed on the Committee’s members, a decision of the AU PSC that would provide clarity as to whether the AUHIP recommendations were indeed adopted by the African Union.

In addition to the uncertainties of Abyei’s final status, the people of Abyei are concerned about the deteriorating security situation following the continued violence and the cycle of retaliatory attacks between the Twic Dinka from Warrap State and Ngok Dinka over land ownership and income-generating hubs in Anet, Agok and Anthony. The violence has displaced some members of the Ngok population from their villages located along the border with Warrap, and has led to the destruction of property and livelihoods, and the loss of lives on both sides. There are indications that the tensions may persist as grievances of both communities over these areas remain unresolved. Meanwhile, the South Sudanese co-chairs of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) expressed disappointment that resolutions reached by the President Kiir during his visit to Warrap in March this year were not adhered to by the communities. In this regard, I will continue my engagement with representatives from Abyei and the government of South Sudan to advocate against violence and hate speech while encouraging community-based reconciliation.

On the humanitarian front, the Sudanese conflict, coupled with inter-communal violence between the Ngok and Twic, has compounded Abyei's already difficult humanitarian situation. The influx of the displaced, who continue to arrive daily, has overwhelmed host communities, stretched already limited food supplies, and hiked market prices in Abyei. The Twic-Ngok clashes have hampered farming activities in Southern Abyei, which, as AJOC has cautioned, would further compound the humanitarian situation.

Mr. President,

If I may now turn to the Two Areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the conflict between SAF and RSF has aggravated the already tense security situation and the dire humanitarian conditions in those two territories and reignited a conflict between SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu that was frozen for the past few years. In addition, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have also been in clashes between the SPLM-N and the RSF. The SPLM-N took over several SAF bases in South Kordofan, notably the al-Roseiris area, southeast of Kadugli in June and July. In Blue Nile, SPLM-N took control of several villages in the al-Kurmuk locality. SAF reacted to SPLM-N’s military offensive with airstrikes against SPLM-N’s positions in Dilling and Kadugli localities. The armed movement claimed that those military operations were necessary to protect the civilian population from the insecurity caused by the conflict between SAF and RSF.

In an attempt to close the opening of a second front in addition to the conflict against RSF, General Burhan has sought President Kiir’s mediation to stop the fighting. To the best of our knowledge, this has not resulted yet in any favorable outcome. In the meantime, the security situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continues to deteriorate because of the clashes between SAF and RSF in those two territories.

The conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile cannot be addressed without negotiations on the final status of those “Two Areas”. This requires a permanent ceasefire and a political process to end the conflict between SAF and RSF. Yet, given the multiplicity of conflicts in Sudan, the international community should pursue a comprehensive political strategy dealing simultaneously with the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and paving the way for talks on Abyei’s final status.

Mr. President,

My Office will continue to engage with the authorities of both countries and the relevant Sudanese and South Sudanese stakeholders, in addition to the African Union and IGAD, to advocate for a comprehensive process that leaves no conflict unaddressed and in line with Resolution 2046, giving due attention to Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Thank you for your attention.