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Parfait Onanga-Anyanga (on screen), Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, briefs the Security Council meeting on the Sudan and South Sudan and the situation in Abyei. 22 October 2020. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Special Envoy commends the continued strengthening of the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan

Briefing to the Security Council on Resolution 2046, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Parfait Onanga-Anyanga

Madame President,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on progress in the implementation of Resolution 2046, which concerns outstanding bilateral issues between Sudan and South Sudan and the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The global coronavirus pandemic has continued to impact health, human and socio-economic developments in Sudan and South Sudan. With the closure of airspaces and land borders and the continuous enforcement of other restrictive measures to contain the spread of the virus, even our in-person engagements with the authorities were severely limited. Nevertheless, thanks to virtual communication, I was able to engage substantively with a significant number of high-level officials in the two countries and the region.

The drastic preventive measures applied by IGAD countries at the start of the pandemic appear to have been successful in weakening the spread of COVID-19 in the region. The focus of the response has now shifted to economic recovery and restoring people’s livelihoods. With the reopening of airports, I was able to visit Sudan from 13 to 16 October. I held very fruitful consultations with government officials, including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Irrigation, the Chairman of the opposition NUP party, the Deputy Chairman of the SPLA/M-North, the chief negotiator of the Justice and Equality Movement, and the Peace Commissioner. A projected visit to South Sudan could not take place before this briefing. I was nevertheless able to speak with Minister Deng Alor, who is responsible for the Abyei file in South Sudan.

I am happy to report that the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan continues to strengthen. It is in this context that, at the beginning of September, Sudan and South Sudan agreed to review all their 2012 Cooperation Agreements with immediate effect. Following a September 2 meeting, South Sudan dispatched a high-level mission to Khartoum on September 6 to initiate bilateral discussions, including on Abyei. While neither party disclosed the outcomes, there was an understanding that further talks on Abyei would take place alternately in both countries. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the pivotal role that UNISFA continues to play in maintaining stability in Abyei under very challenging circumstances.

The flagship event during the reporting period was the signing in Juba of a peace agreement on October 3 between the Government of Sudan, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front alliance and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi faction. The agreement was the culmination of a peace process launched in Juba in October 2019 under the auspices of President Kiir, who is also its guarantor, alongside President Idriss Deby of Chad. Among other things, the agreement covers key region-specific and national issues related to governance, security arrangements, land ownership, transitional justice and the return of displaced persons.

During my visit to Khartoum, I gathered that there is a strong will for making the Juba agreement a real success. There is commitment and a clear political will to accelerate the implementation process and demonstrate to the non-signatory movements of Abdel Aziz Al Hilu and Abdel Wahid Al Nour that peace is the only way forward for a prosperous, stable and just Sudan that caters for all its people.

While in Khartoum, I was also able to meet with the deputy chief mediator for the Juba process, Dr Dhieu Mathok of South Sudan. He expressed optimism that the core demands of the SPLM-North faction under Abdel Aziz Al Hilu are being considered for resolution. Building on Prime Minister Hamdok’s peace efforts and the signing in Addis Ababa with Al Hilu of a Joint Declaration subsequently endorsed by the High Council of Peace in Sudan, informal workshops to flesh out the details of the issues of secularism, the status of the SPLA during the transition, self-determination in case the peace agreement is not honoured and the terms for a national Constitutional Conference to endorse these provisions will start soon in Juba, I’m told next week, between the Government of Sudan and Al Hilu. Further, during my meetings in Khartoum, the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council, the Prime Minister, members of the negotiation team, the Peace Commissioner, the leadership of the Forces of Freedom and Change, and the South Sudanese mediators all vowed to spare no effort to bring onboard the Sudan Liberation Movement faction led by Abdel Wahid Al Nour, to ensure a fully comprehensive agreement.

One immediate effect of the Juba Agreement will be the reactivation of the Four Freedoms between Sudan and South Sudan, namely freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake an economic activity, and freedom to own and dispose of property. This will enable citizens to move, conduct business, settle and transfer or own assets in either country freely, or with minimal transaction costs. The Sudanese Minister of Defence pledged that Sudan would meet its commitment to open the border crossing points on 27 October, and I’m told as we speak Madame President that the two Ministers of Defence are meeting in Khartoum. Measures taken to open the dry port in Kosti and to re-launch commercial river transport operations and other crossing points would allow for the free movement of goods and services. They would also enable Sudan to accelerate trade with South Sudan and compete on this market with other neighbouring countries. In the meantime, the African Union has indicated its intention to convene the Joint Border Commission soon and has encouraged both countries to resume high-level meetings such as the Joint Security Commission (JSC) and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM).


Madame President,

In his address at the agreement-signing ceremony on October 3, President Kiir reiterated that he accepted to mediate the conflict also because he was aware that peace in Sudan will have a positive bearing on South Sudan’s security. As the countries now strengthen their relationships, they are no longer likely to pursue activities that undermine each other’s stability. On the contrary, I am aware that, building on the Rome peace efforts led by the Sant’Egidio community, Sudan is currently embarking on an attempt to mediate between General Thomas Cirillo of the National Salvation Front (NAS) and the Government of South Sudan. Authorities in both countries are confident that all outstanding bilateral issues between their countries, including Abyei and resolution of the situation in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states, will benefit from the friendly relationships and the mutual trust they are now enjoying.

Meanwhile, the two countries have continued to develop fruitful cooperation in oil. On 28 September, they signed a protocol to resume oil production in the Unity and Toma South fields, with 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) expected to be produced very soon. The deal includes details on the transfer of crude oil to Sudan for its domestic use. In return, Sudan will provide technical support. Before the agreement, South Sudan was providing 30,000 bpd of crude oil to Sudan. The deal is in line with South Sudan’s plan to return to its pre-conflict production level of 350,000 bpd from its current 150,000 bpd.

To conclude, Madame President, the warm relationships which I have outlined above between Sudan and South Sudan also provide an opportunity for the international community indeed an opportunity to strengthen further its engagements with both countries as they still grapple with their internal challenges, which have always constrained their bilateral relations.

In South Sudan, the implementation of the peace agreement remains deadlocked on several substantive issues on which the parties may need some support to move forward.

For its part, Sudan has embarked on the right path and demonstrated the political will to resolve its multiple conflicts. Now, more than ever before, it also needs our collective support to overcome some of the obstacles that are likely to hinder a smooth transition and the implementation of the peace process. It is in this context Madame President that we welcome the announcement by the United States government on 20 October to initiate the removal of Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Madame President, nowhere is such support more vital than on the economic front to both advance much-needed reforms and meet the basic needs of the population. I left Khartoum last Friday with mixed feelings. Hopeful in the unprecedented drive for peace and deeply concerned by the sight of endless fuel and bread queues. Without concrete peace dividends, the legitimate aspirations for freedom and shared prosperity of the Sudanese people may be jeopardised.

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, to encourage further progress on the implementation of all cooperation agreements and the peace processes in both countries.

Thank you for your kind attention.