Sudan and South Sudan: The Safe Demilitarized Border Zone Explained

Posted by Quinn Libson

On June 7, yet another round of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan ended. These most recent talks centered around the establishment of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, or SDBZ, a border security measure to which both sides consented in a June 2011 agreement on border security.

According to this agreement, the SDBZ is set to create a demilitarized zone 10 kilometers wide on either side of the border. While the SDBZ is agreed upon in theory, in practice, the establishment of this zone will prove tricky. As Enough Policy Sudan Analyst Jenn Christian points out in her most recent field dispatch, “Negotiations between the Two Sudans: The Safe Demilitarized Border Zone Explained”:

[M]apping the SDBZ is complicated by the fact that the two parties have not yet agreed on the final definition of the North-South border. Indeed, at least twenty percent of the border remains disputed and therefore undefined.

Disagreements over this border have caused nearly two years of deadlock in North-South negotiations and starkly limited the work of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, or JBVMM, a joint oversight body charged with monitoring the border zone and overseeing agreements related to the SDBZ. 

Some steps toward the implementation of the SDBZ have been made in the most recent round of talks.  South Sudan accepted a map proposed by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, or AUHIP, which defines an administrative common border between the two countries and, by extension, the SDBZ. Khartoum has responded saying it needs to examine the proposed map before it can accept it as a temporary solution to border disagreements. 

The challenge now will be to sustain momentum on these border talks in the upcoming negotiations, expected to begin this Thursday, June 21. Building up to these talks, analyst Jenn Christian urges the AUHIP, and other interested parties, to “apply diplomatic pressure on Khartoum to accept the panel’s proposed map and, by extension, the definition of the demilitarized zone.”   

Read the full brief: “Negotiations between the Two Sudans: The Safe Demilitarized Border Zone Explained