Security Council extends UNISFA mandate in Abyei

Security Council extends UNISFA mandate in Abyei
Members of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (photo credit: courtesy)

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) yesterday extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until December 15, 2022.

On November 15, 2021, the UNSC initially passed a technical rollover resolution, extending the duration of UNISFA for another month. However, this decision was reviewed yesterday, when the UNISFA mission was again extended till December 15, 2022.

 This decision was motivated by the circumstances in Sudan following the military takeover in October.

The mission’s performance and effectiveness, and the facilitation of UNISFA personnel’s safety and security, access, and freedom of movement were among the agenda items discussed during the draft text talks.

The draft resolution was negotiated against the backdrop of substantial political changes in Sudan, according to the statement released by the Security Council.

Lt Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the Chairperson of the Sudan Transitional Sovereign Council, announced a statewide state of emergency and suspended major sections of the August 2019 Constitutional Document on October 25, according to the UN-Security Council.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was seized by the military and placed under house arrest. Despite the fact that Hamdok was released on November 21, after the signing of the power-sharing arrangement with Fattah, the country remains unstable.

Sudanese opposition to the power-sharing agreement has continued, with protests against the military’s presence in the administration taking place in many cities.

“Sudan’s political instability has yet to have an impact on the country’s bilateral ties with South Sudan and the situation in Abyei.”

The UNSC applauded the improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan, saying they had established an enabling atmosphere for progress in addressing the final status of Abyei prior to these developments.

It also applauds the August high-level talks between Sudan and South Sudan on the status of Abyei, as well as the September 9 and October 21 meetings of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM).

The JPSM is a body used by Sudan and South Sudan to discuss security issues of mutual interest.

“Despite their recent reconciliation, Sudan and South Sudan have made little headway in determining the final status of Abyei in the last 10 years,’’ the statement read in part.

Supporting process

The UNSC encouraged the two countries to engage in serious discussions to help forward the political process of resolving the Abyei dispute.

“Regional tensions, notably the ongoing armed conflict in Ethiopia and growing tensions over the eastern border in the Al-Fashaga area between Sudan and Ethiopia, have resulted in periodic skirmishes, influenced the talks on the draft resolution.”

“These events have ramifications for UNISFA, as Ethiopia is the mission’s single troop contributor. Sudan has publicly demanded the Ethiopian troops in UNISFA to be replaced, which South Sudan has apparently rejected.

“Ethiopia has realised that keeping its forces in Abyei is no longer viable, especially in light of Sudan’s posture,” the UNSC said in a statement released yesterday.

 “Members of the Council have agreed to the first suggestion of the strategic review. The draft language in blue reduces the mission’s authorised troop ceiling from 3,500 to 3,250 until May 15, 2022, and affirms the Council’s intention to keep the Secretary-General’s recommendations  under review.”

They allowed the police ceiling to remain at 640 officers, comprising 148 individual officers and three established police units.

The meeting also tackled the issue of UNISFA personnel’s visas as the major impediment to the deployment of the mission’s police troops.

The draft resolution expressed the council’s grave concern in this regard and asked Sudan and South Sudan to fully support the mission and its personnel’s deployment by removing any obstacles to its mandate’s implementation and ensuring freedom of movement.

“The mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), which was formed in 2011 to perform monitoring and verification activities along the Sudan-South Sudan border, is also extended until May 15, 2022, in the draft language in blue.”

During the negotiations, it appears that the council members discussed the necessity of beefing up security at some of the JBVMM team’s venues that had been targeted in recent months.