- 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. Since I am addressing the Security Council for the first time since Kenya’s assumption of the Presidency, allow me Mr President to warmly congratulate you on your competent handling and skillful stewardship of the business of this august body.
- Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of multifaceted challenges posing a serious threat to the stability of several countries in the Horn of Africa and the region. This situation has been compounded by the impact of COVID-19 which has exacerbated already precarious living conditions.
- The tragic events unfolding in Sudan following the unconstitutional change of government reflect the shaky transitions that many countries are going through. It will therefore be critical to urgently restore the constitutional order, consistent with the Constitutional Declaration as well as the Juba Peace agreement.
- Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, I was able to engage with national authorities of both countries during the review period, both in person in the company of USG Lacroix in Khartoum and Abyei, and here in New York, as well as remotely.
- We visited Khartoum and Abyei from 6-8 September, as part of consultations with the Governments of Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia on the future status of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). I also discussed bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan.
- While most of what I am reporting on may sound a bit removed from the current situation in Sudan which could negatively impact bilateral relations, I sincerely hope that the recent positive trend will not be derailed. Encouragingly, Sudan and South Sudan have been so far deepening their relationship, epitomised by several high-level visits and initiatives in support of each other’s peace processes. These include the start of peace talks in Juba between the Government of Sudan and the faction of Abdel Aziz Al Hilu’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)-North on 26 May, the launch of South Sudan's permanent constitution-making process, as well as efforts to help address the infighting between rival factions of the SPLM-in-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), which could unravel the peace process in South Sudan.
- Crucially, President Kiir and PM Hamdok reached an agreement to resume export and border trade. In this regard, they agreed to reopen border crossing points between their two countries. However, the launch did not materialise, having been overtaken by the unfolding events in Sudan.
- The two countries agreed on a roadmap to review and follow up on implementing all 2012 cooperation agreements with timelines established by their ministries of foreign affairs. In the meantime, they undertook to remove all barriers to banking transactions and allow banks to establish branches in both countries. They also committed to developing a joint oil and gas strategy at the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) meeting of 8-9 September in Juba, though no reference was made to this in the decisions of the JPSM meeting. Sudan and South Sudan further agreed to enhance cooperation on security and intelligence.
- Among others, the JPSM (a) called for progress on the border crossing points opening; (b) requested Sudan and South Sudan to ensure the withdrawal of their forces from the Abyei box with immediate effect and no later than 31 December 2021, and tasked UNISFA to report thereon monthly; (c) requested both countries to engage with elements of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) still in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ), and (d) urged the two countries to resume meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC).
- Although both countries favour the resumption of AJOC meetings, the last of which took place in 2017, they disagree on the agenda and are yet to set a new meeting date. On the substance, whereas Sudan advocates the joint institutions provided for in the agreement on the temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei Area of 20 June 2011, South Sudan considers discussion of joint institutions, especially the Abyei Police Service, a non-starter ostensibly over fears that this reinforces Khartoum’s position on Abyei. These disagreements have consistently dodged AJOC meetings, notably with South Sudan expressing frustration at the continued presence of the Sudanese oil police in Diffra and now hinting at the possibility of deploying forces to Abyei unless Sudan withdraws its troops. Sudan, too has continued to maintain that South Sudanese armed elements are still present within the Abyei box. Hopefully, both countries will abide by the deadline of 31 December 2021 set by the JPSM to withdraw all armed forces so that AJOC meetings, when eventually reconvened, can focus on the mechanism's mandate of political and administrative oversight of the yet-to-be constituted Abyei Executive Council, providing guidance for the timely implementation of various agreements, and facilitating the establishment and sustainability of a secure and stable environment in Abyei. The long-standing deadlock has hindered any progress in Abyei, besides leaving the area with a clearly defined status that has continued to stoke instability.
- On a positive note, each country has established a high-level committee on Abyei. The two committees are separately reviewing all past agreements on Abyei in view of negotiations facilitated by a third party that would lead to the settlement of the final status of Abyei.
- To address the 2012 Cooperation Agreements comprehensively, the two countries met in Juba on 21 October in the first joint meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) and Joint Border Commission (JBC) convened by the African Union Border Programme and opened by South Sudan's First Vice-President, Riek Machar. Mr Machar urged the parties to expedite the implementation of the Cooperation Agreements. The next joint meeting is planned for the second week of January 2022.
- Regarding the recent concerning developments in Gok Machar, Kir Adem/Safaha, and War Abar/As Samayah, which threatened the security and safety of UNISFA/JBVMM personnel and led to the regrettable loss of life of one peacekeeper, I reminded South Sudanese authorities of their obligations under resolutions 2518 (2020) and 2575 (2021) and the Status of Forces agreement. In this regard, I welcome the government’s 19 October statement by which it reiterated its commitment to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) and expressed its unequivocal support to UNISFA.
- On 3 October, South Sudan issued a statement to mark the first anniversary of the Juba Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and Sudanese armed movements. While commending the progress made by Sudanese parties in partially forming national and state governments, the South Sudan mediation committee called for redoubling of efforts for more political will towards implementing the agreement. It also expressed concern about the disagreement among Sudanese political forces within the transitional government and encouraged them to resolve this through dialogue.
- As concerns the resolution of the conflict in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states, I note with regret that efforts by the South Sudan mediation committee haven’t so far succeeded to resume negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Al Hilu SPLM-North faction, since talks between them were suspended on 15 June for two weeks to allow the parties time to consult their constituencies on the outstanding issues. The parties had agreed on most of the issues but they still disagreed on two key demands of the SPLM-North: the adoption of a secular state in Sudan and the disbanding of the Rapid Support Forces within the framework of the security arrangements. Nevertheless, it is heartening that both parties reiterated their commitment to the peace process and hoped to agree on the outstanding issues during the next round of talks. I also note, regrettably, that even though Abdel Wahid Al-Nur of the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement/Army was present in Juba on 26 May, he again resisted President Kiir’s attempts to include his movement in the Sudan peace process.
- Despite lingering disagreements between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan on a number of outstanding matters, including over the final status of Abyei, the intensification of high-level contacts between the two countries and the complementarity of their mediation efforts in resolving their respective internal conflicts augur well for their long-term peaceful co-existence. It is crucial for both countries to preserve and build on the progress achieved so far and to resolve the conflict in the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states. As they do so, the international community should in turn redouble efforts in enabling them to achieve their noble goals. Given the increasingly tense regional environment, I hope that the current developments in Sudan will not reverse the commendable achievements already made. 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 them to defuse regional tensions, advance the implementation of all cooperation agreements and consolidate their improved bilateral relations.
Thank you for your attention.