October 11, 2018 (NEW YORK) – The United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of Abyei security force (UNISFA) for six months but once again it sets conditions for the continuation of its support to the Sudan-South Sudan border monitoring mechanism.
Since May 2017, the Security Council especially the United States, the penholder on the issue, has insisted on the need to fully operationalize the deployment of joint troops from the two countries on the demilitarized border zone and to stop impeding its activities.
The Council “Decides to extend until 15 April 2019 UNISFA ‘s mandate modification set forth in resolution 2024 (2011) and paragraph I of resolution 2075 (2012), and further decides that this shall be the final such extension unless the parties take the specific measures described in paragraph 3,” reads the resolution 2438 adopted unanimously on Thursday.
In the third paragraph of the resolution, the 15-member body urged Sudan and South Sudan to fully implement the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) which the two countries agreed in the Cooperation Agreement of September 2012.
UN reports say Sudan and South Sudan have allowed UNISFA air and ground patrols in the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, but point that little progress has made with regard to other measures to fully activate the operation.
The UNISFA says that the redeployment of troops out of the buffer zone had not taken place in the disputed Tishwin area, where the presence of troops of the two sides were barely 600 metres apart. Also, the presence of unknown armed elements has been denoted in nine locations north of the demilitarized zone but the South Sudanese army denied any link with them. In addition, there is the issue of the 14 Mile Area as the Malual Dinka refuse the establishment of a JBVMM site there and the delayed meetings of the joint mechanism.
The resolution has maintained UNISFA’s authorized troop ceiling of 4,500 until 15 November 2018; and decided that as of 15 April 2019, the authorized troop ceiling shall decrease by 541 troops, unless it decides to extend the mandate if the two countries achieve progress in the pending issues.
It is believed that the UNIFSA’s support for a limited period is used here as a means of putting pressure on the parties to fully implement the security measures on the border demilitarized zone and to demarcate the 2000 km border between the countries.
But, it is true that the administration of President Donald Trump continue to put pressure on the UN to reduce the peacekeeping missions and the financial support it provides.
The US diplomats at the United Nations repeatedly said the UNISFA was supposed to be an interim force but now is indefinitely prolonged without real progress on the ground.
Regarding the border monitoring mechanism, on 20 September, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Cohen told the Security Council that the U.S. would not “support indefinitely a mechanism that remains underutilized and is not making progress in resolving the political issues that are at the root of UNISFA’s JBVMM support mandate.”