Expected Council Action
In March, the Council expects to hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the situation in South Sudan and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). No outcome is expected at press time.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 July 2013.
Key Recent Developments
On 28 November 2012, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s 8 November report on South Sudan (S/2012/820). Ladsous said that the lack of progress in implementing the 27 September agreements on security, oil transport and revenue, cross-border trade and other issues could negatively affect South Sudan’s economic stability, especially if oil exports were delayed. (There has been slow progress in implementing the security agreements, and Sudan has been unwilling to export oil from South Sudan until security arrangements are finalised.) Ladsous also expressed concerns about the human rights situation, inter-communal violence and the delays in the constitutional review process in South Sudan.
Ambassador Francis M. Deng (South Sudan) addressed the Council after Ladsous, stating that a comprehensive and sustainable peace with Sudan is South Sudan’s “number one priority”. He also emphasised South Sudan’s concern with the situation in Jonglei state, alluding to his government’s efforts to facilitate inter-communal dialogue and to conduct disarmament in a responsible manner.
On 21 December 2012, South Sudan shot down an UNMISS helicopter on a reconnaissance mission in Jonglei state, resulting in the deaths of four UNMISS crewmembers from the Russian Federation. Later that day, the Council issued a press statement in which it strongly deplored the downing of the helicopter, expressed condolences to the families of the victims and strongly urged a thorough and swift investigation (SC/10873). (South Sudan has initiated an investigation and Russia is conducting an analysis of the flight data recorder, or “black box”. South Sudan has claimed that it shot at the helicopter because it mistook it for a Sudanese aircraft supplying rebels in the area.)
On 21 January, President Salva Kiir issued a decree dismissing Chol Tong Maya, the elected governor of Lakes state, for his alleged inability to effectively combat recent inter-clan violence. While some have questioned the legality of the decision, parliament determined that the decision was constitutional on 28 January. (One parliamentarian, Ayen Maguat, pointed to article 101(r) of the transitional constitution, which states that the president can dismiss a state governor “in the event of a crisis in the state that threatens national security and territorial integrity”.)
Kiir made key changes within the military in January and February. On 21 January, he dismissed 35 generals and placed them on reserve. He appointed six generals as deputies to the General Staff Chief James Hoth Mai and three generals as sector commanders for Wau, Malakal and Torit, while promoting nine other generals. On 14 February, Kiir dismissed more than 100 additional high-ranking officials, including the governors of Unity (Taban Deng Gai), Eastern Equatoria (Louis Lobong Lojore), Western Bahr el Ghazal (Rizik Hassan Zachariah) and Upper Nile (Simon Kun Puoc) states.
Also on 21 January, Justice Minister John Luk Jok presented a bill to the Legislative Assembly seeking to extend by nine months the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC). (In January 2012, Kiir appointed the NCRC to consult throughout South Sudan and prepare a new draft constitution by January 2013. The bill was proposed because the NCRC was unable to meet the deadline.)
On 15 February, the Legislative Assembly’s Judicial and Constitutional Committee held a public hearing in which it discussed potentially reducing the size of NCRC (which currently has 55 members), the need to ensure that sufficient funds are provided for its work, and the length of its mandate. At press time, the Legislative Assembly was still considering the bill on the NCRC.
More than 100 people were killed in a cattle raid on 8 February in Jonglei state when members of the Murle ethnic group attacked members of the Lou-Nuer ethnic group, who were approaching the Sobat River in the midst of their annual migration. Fourteen soldiers, who were trying to protect the Lou-Nuer, were among those killed. Dozens of children were abducted as well during the assault. Goi Joyal—who serves as the commissioner in Akobo County, where the attack occurred—alleged that the perpetrators were affiliated with Murle rebel leader David Yau Yau.
On 5 December 2012, Diing Chan Awol, a journalist who wrote under the name Isaiah Abraham and who had frequently criticised the government, was shot and killed outside his home in Juba by unidentified assailants. On 10 February, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS, declared that South Sudan would become the first country to adopt the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. (According to UNESCO, the plan is designed to develop mechanisms and strategies to create “a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations”.)
Johnson held a press conference in Juba on 15 February on the situation in South Sudan. She said that nation-building efforts had been limited because South Sudan had been focused on its relations with Sudan. Johnson recognised progress made by South Sudan, such as the passage of key electoral legislation and the creation of a programme for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. However, she added that UNMISS was disturbed by reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks against journalists, civil society and human rights activists.
Refugees continue to arrive in Unity and Upper Nile states, fleeing the fighting and hunger in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. On 15 February, OCHA reported that there are nearly 113,000 refugees in Upper Nile and over 67,000 refugees in Unity. On 15 February, UNHCR reported that 111 refugees had died from Hepatitis E, and 6,017 had been infected since July 2012.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During the 12 February open debate on the protection of civilians, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the expulsion in November 2012 of an UNMISS human rights officer had set “a dangerous precedent” and once again urged South Sudan to reconsider its decision (S/PV.6917). (Pillay had called on South Sudan to reverse the expulsion order on 9 November 2012.) In late January, two UNMISS human rights staff were detained and interrogated for several hours regarding inquiries involving a journalist. Johnson on 10 February said that such acts are grave violations “of the agreements the government has signed and the privileges and immunities of United Nations personnel”.
One key issue is how to facilitate implementation of the 27 September agreements, as efforts to promote internal development and economic stability in South Sudan are severely curtailed without oil revenue or cross-border trade.
Also an important issue is whether and how Kiir’s dismissal of high-ranking officials will affect the effectiveness and stability of the government.
Another key issue is how the Council can encourage progress in the constitutional review process, which has experienced delays in the past year.
An additional key issue is how to strengthen efforts to prevent inter-communal violence and promote inter-communal reconciliation in Jonglei state and elsewhere in South Sudan. A related issue is the need to address violence committed by Yau Yau’s rebel group.
Also a key issue is how to ensure that protocols and procedures are developed and implemented so that incidents such as the shooting down of the UNMISS helicopter in Jonglei are not repeated.
Options for the Council include:
- listening to the briefing but taking no action at the current time;
- inviting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs to brief the Council on the humanitarian situation, especially challenges facing refugees in Unity and Upper Nile states; and
- holding an Arria formula meeting focusing on the sources of inter-communal violence in South Sudan with the participation of experts capable of providing the Council with informed analysis of the violence and suggesting potential strategies for addressing this violence.
The Council may also wish to adopt a statement that, inter-alia:
- expresses concern with the ongoing incidents of inter-communal violence and highlights the importance of reconciliation;
- encourages efforts to investigate the 21 December downing of an UNMISS helicopter, while underscoring the importance of developing and implementing rules and procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future; and
- underscores the need for progress in the constitutional review process, while emphasising that it be conducted in an inclusive manner throughout the country.
The Council has been focused largely on Sudan-South Sudan relations in recent months. Deliberations on South Sudan in March will, for the first time since November 2012, provide Council members with an opportunity to engage substantively with the domestic situation in South Sudan and the activities of UNMISS. It will likewise mark the first time that the new Council members have discussed an UNMISS report.
There has been widespread concern in the Council for several months about inter-communal violence, especially in Jonglei state, and the difficult humanitarian situation in South Sudan, exacerbated by the austerity measures the government put in place after shutting down its oil production in early 2012. Some members also appear to be particularly troubled by the human rights situation in South Sudan.
The US is the lead country on South Sudan.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|5 July 2012S/RES/2057||This renewed UNMISS through 15 July 2013.|
|8 July 2011S/RES/1996||This resolution established the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|21 December 2012SC/10873||The Council issued a press statement deploring the shooting down of a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) helicopter by the the Sudan People’s Liberation Army earlier that day.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 November 2012S/PV.6874||This was the Council’s most recent briefing on UNMISS.|
|8 November 2012S/2012/820||This report of the Secretary-General was on the situation in South Sudan.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Hilde Johnson (Norway)
UNMISS Force Commander
Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi (Ghana)
Maximum Authorised Strength
Up to 7,000 military personnel
Up to 900 civilian police personnel
Strength (as of 31 December 2012)
7,157 total uniformed personnel (including 6,473 troops, 140 military liaison officers and 544 police)
831 international civilian personnel and 1,375 local civilian staff (as of 31 October 2012)
Mission also includes 391 UN volunteers.