Expected Council Action
The Council will likely renew the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) before it expires on 15 July. Prior to renewing the mandate, Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative and head of UNMISS, is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNMISS (S/2013/366). Council members are expected to hold consultations on UNMISS following her briefing.
Key Recent Developments
The Council was last briefed on UNMISS and the situation in South Sudan on 21 March (S/PV.6938). Johnson told the Council that “South Sudan’s transition to a stable, viable state continued at an uneven pace”. She emphasised that inter-communal violence in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states continued to pose a serious threat to civilians. She noted that UNMISS had enhanced its troop presence and stepped up its integrated civilian-military patrols in Jonglei, given the complexity of the security challenges there. She also said that the mission continued to train the South Sudan National Police Service.
With respect to political developments, Johnson noted the National Legislative Assembly adopted a law on 26 February extending the mandate of the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) through the end of 2014. (The NCRC was appointed by South Sudan President Salva Kiir in January 2012 and assigned to consult throughout South Sudan and prepare a new draft constitution by January 2013. The new legislation has expanded the timeframe for the NCRC’s work because it was unable to meet its original deadline.)
Following Johnson, Charles Manyang d’Awol, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, addressed the Council on behalf of South Sudan. He said that extending the mandate of the NCRC “will allow for meaningful participation by the largest number of our citizens in the constitutional review process”. He also emphasised the importance of an “inclusive, long-term national reconciliation process” in South Sudan.
From 6-10 May, women from all of South Sudan convened in Juba for the Women’s National Constitutional Review Conference. Conference participants adopted 35 resolutions, providing recommendations for elements of a new constitution. Among their recommendations, they called for:
- a minimum legal marriage age of 18 for both genders (approximately 36 percent of girls in South Sudan are married prior to turning 18);
- a term limit for the presidency of two terms of four years each;
- allocation of at least 5 percent of the national budget to women’s empowerment programming; and
- a quota of 35 percent female participation as representatives in political parties and local government and as presidential appointees.
The security situation in Jonglei state has been highly volatile in recent months. On 2 March, clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and David Yau Yau’s rebel movement were reported. According to the SPLA, 28 rebels died and ten SPLA soldiers were wounded in the fighting, which was precipitated by an ambush of SPLA troops by the rebels.
On 9 April, another attack perpetrated by approximately 200 unidentified assailants in Pibor county claimed the lives of five UN peacekeepers, two other UNMISS staff and five other civilians. Later the same day, the Council adopted a press statement condemning the attack (SC/10968).
President Kiir issued an amnesty to rebels fighting the government on 25 April. Although some rebel movements accepted the amnesty, one notable exception was the group associated with Yau Yau, leader of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A). More clashes between the SPLA and Yau Yau’s forces were reported in the days following the amnesty offer after the latter engaged the SPLA in fighting on 28 April in Muorua locality in Pibor county. On 29 April, the rebels attacked Pibor town, resulting in the deaths of one SPLA soldier and two SSDA rebels.
On 8 May, Yau Yau’s movement seized Boma town in Jonglei. Although the rebels alleged that they killed 50 SPLA soldiers while taking Boma, the SPLA challenged this claim, stated it had retaken Boma on 18 May and reported that four of its soldiers were killed in the process. The rebels challenged this assertion, alleging that the SPLA had only taken control of Iti, a small village outside Boma, while conceding that five rebels had died in the fighting with the SPLA.
On 14 May, UNMISS issued a press release in which it expressed its deep concern at the security situation in and around Pibor town. The release referred to public statements made by Yau Yau’s group on three separate occasions, warning of forthcoming assaults on Pibor town and Kapeota town in Eastern Equatoria state and demanding that NGOs and civilians leave these places. (Large-scale displacement of civilians occurred in response to these public statements.) The press release also noted looting of facilities belonging to the UN and humanitarian organisations by undisciplined SPLA troops, members of the wildlife service and rebels.
Large-scale displacement has resulted from the fighting in Jonglei. In its 27 May-2 June Humanitarian Bulletin on South Sudan, OCHA noted that “Boma, Pibor and other population centres were deserted” and that nearly “all civilians had fled into the bush amid increasing tensions between state and non-state armed actors”. OCHA has also estimated that high numbers of refugees have fled Jonglei for Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda since the beginning of 2013. For example, roughly 2,700 South Sudanese refugees from Jonglei made their way into Uganda between January and May 2013, while over 5,390 former inhabitants of Jonglei have been registered in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya in the same time period.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 June, during the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri introduced the report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/23/31). Pansieri said that the human rights situation in South Sudan remains precarious with a government which has been struggling to protect civilians from human rights abuses, including by its own security forces, particularly in Jonglei state. On 14 June, the HRC adopted a resolution calling on the government to strengthen cooperation with UNMISS on issues related to promotion and protection of human rights, requesting the government of South Sudan to address impunity and improve the justice system and asking the High Commissioner to continue to report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan.
A key issue is how South Sudan’s difficult relationship with Sudan weakens the new country’s ability to focus on its own political, security and economic challenges.
Another 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.
Human rights violations committed by Yau Yau’s group and other rebels—as well as by government security forces—constitutes another issue that needs to be addressed more effectively. (One challenge has been the government’s ambivalent relationship with UNMISS’s human rights staff, reflected by its decision in November 2012 to expel a high-ranking UNMISS human rights officer and by its detention and questioning of two UNMISS human rights staff in late January.)
An additional important issue is the need to enhance the aerial assets (e.g., helicopters) available to the mission and to ensure that they are used as effectively as possible.
Also an issue is how to facilitate progress in the constitutional review process to ensure that it is conducted in a fair, inclusive and timely manner.
The most likely option for the Council is to renew UNMISS’s mandate for an additional year. In doing so, the Council may consider:
- highlighting the importance of UNMISS’s protection of civilians efforts while condemning the perpetrators of violence against civilians;
- calling on the Secretariat to enhance training for women’s protection advisors in the mission;
- reminding the South Sudanese government of the importance of upholding its human rights responsibilities;
- recognising efforts by the government to promote reconciliation;
- making a special request to member states to provide the mission with more aerial assets;
- highlighting the importance of advancing the constitutional review process in a timely and inclusive manner; and
- changing the UNMISS reporting cycle to a quarterly basis (rather than the current three times per year) given the fragility of the security situation in South Sudan.
In keeping with the results of the review of the mission conducted in April, and outlined in the Secretary-General’s recent report, the Council could also:
- request UNMISS “to develop options for the geographical reconfiguration” of the mission to ensure that it focuses on the most volatile areas; and
- call for UNMISS and the UN country team to conduct a “joint review of the…respective comparative advantages [of the UN system] in support of the extension of civilian state authority.”
The Council may also request a briefing from the Secretariat on the potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for early-warning surveillance in areas of South Sudan where rebel activity and inter-communal violence have been prevalent.
While there is widespread support among Council members for UNMISS’s efforts to help South Sudan develop rule of law and governance institutions, most Council members also share the view that protection of civilians is a priority for the mission. Given the numerous reports of violence in South Sudan in recent months—particularly in Jonglei state, where Yau Yau’s rebel group has been active—several Council members are interested in exploring how the mission can play a more proactive role in protecting civilians. There is an understanding that the mission needs enhanced air assets to improve its monitoring of the situation on the ground, especially given the lack of roads in remote areas of the country.
The safety and security of peacekeepers in Jonglei has also been on Council members’ minds, especially in light of the five UNMISS peacekeepers killed on 9 April and the downing of the UNMISS helicopter on 21 December 2012.
While there are strong concerns about the security threat posed by Yau Yau’s group, some members also appear to be alarmed by reports of human rights violations committed by South Sudan’s security forces.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|5 July 2012 S/RES/2057||Renewed UNMISS through 15 July 2013.|
|11 July 2011 S/RES/1997||This resolution authorised the withdrawal of UNMIS.|
|8 July 2011 S/RES/1996||This resolution established the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|9 April 2013 SC/10968||This was a press statement condemning the attacks on UNMISS peacekeepers.|
|21 December 2012 SC/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.|
|20 June 2013 S/2013/366||This was a Secretary-General’s report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|21 March 2013 S/PV.6938||This was a briefing from Hilde Johnson, the head of UNMISS.|
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
7,601 total uniformed personnel, including 6,806 troops, 146 military liaison officers and 649 police (as of 31 May 2013)
868 international civilian personnel and 1,342 local civilian staff (as of 30 April 2013)
409 UN volunteers (as of 31 May 2013)