Expected Council Action
In April, Council members are scheduled to receive a briefing in consultations on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The Council may adopt a resolution reprioritising or revising UNMISS’s mandate, drawing upon recommendations outlined in the Secretary-General’s report issued on 6 March (S/2014/158). The mandate of UNMISS expires 15 July.
Key Recent Developments
A convoy of UN trucks stopped for inspection on 7 March by the government in Rumbek, Lakes state, contained weapons and ammunition for an UNMISS contingent in Bentiu, Unity state, in violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which requires the UN to ship weapons within South Sudan by air. Speculation ensued that these supplies also included landmines, but UNMISS has since claimed the boxes held “crowd-control equipment”. A public protest accusing the UN of supporting the opposition erupted in Juba on 10 March, and an internal UN investigation is now apparently underway. Meanwhile, as detailed in media coverage regarding a confidential internal UN report dated 18 March, SOFA violations against UNMISS by South Sudan are increasingly common.
The AU announced on 7 March the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations committed since the 15 December 2013 political crisis. A communiqué of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) had authorised the Commission on 30 December 2013. Olesegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and former chairperson of the AU, has been appointed chairperson of the five-member Commission. It remains unclear when it will report to the AU and whether its findings regarding human rights violations will be made public.
On 13 March, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued a communiqué authorising the deployment of a Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) from states within the region and calling upon the UN and the AU to provide “all necessary support”. States that may contribute to the PDF include Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and possibly Djibouti. The leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Opposition, former Vice President Riek Machar, has objected to the PDF and threatened to abandon the IGAD-mediated peace talks if it is deployed. Uganda, whose continued military intervention on behalf of the government of South Sudan has also been a key point of contention for the rebel delegation, has reportedly agreed to withdraw its forces from South Sudan once the PDF has been established.
Norway, the UK, and the US (the Troika) plus the EU issued a joint statement on 19 March threatening to impose sanctions on those opposing the peace process. Negotiations in Addis Ababa were due to resume on 20 March, but irrespective of the threatened sanctions, the talks were postponed. The government of South Sudan has objected to the inclusion of seven formerly detained members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) as a third negotiating party (in addition to the delegations representing the government and the armed opposition). The talks resumed on 25 March, while the government of South Sudan has denied dropping its precondition that the seven former SPLM detainees be excluded from negotiations.
Despite the 23 January Cessation of Hostilities Agreement by the government of South Sudan and the SPLA (in Opposition), armed conflict continues. On 20 March, both parties claimed to have consolidated control of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state. As the gateway to the only remaining oil-producing fields in South Sudan, Malakal has strategic significance. Violence has also occurred elsewhere in South Sudan, including within the SPLA proper. Apparently having been provoked by a dispute involving unpaid salary, troops clashed at military barracks outside Juba from 5-7 March.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is rapidly deteriorating. An early onset of the rainy season, limited road networks and ongoing conflict throughout much of the country have restricted the ability of humanitarian actors to reach those in need. According to John Ging, operations chief for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of 21 March more than 50 trucks carrying 2,000 tonnes of urgent aid supplies are currently being held up at checkpoints. On 25 March, WFP and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees urgently appealed for $371 million to provide assistance to more than 200,000 refugees from South Sudan.
Council members discussed the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNMISS in a briefing and consultations on 18 March (S/PV.7141). The report identifies five priority tasks for UNMISS: protecting civilians, enabling humanitarian access, increasing human rights monitoring and reporting, facilitating inter-communal and national dialogue and supporting mediation and ceasefire monitoring by IGAD. The report recommends that the Council raise the ceiling for military and police strength for 12 months in line with the temporary increase approved in resolution 2132 on 24 December 2013. The report also suggests allowing for the retention of certain capacity-building functions in partnership with the government of South Sudan. These would be restricted to states within South Sudan “that have so far been spared by the conflict” and functions that “do not directly contribute to enhancing the fighting capacities of the parties or undermine the Addis Ababa negotiations”.
The principal issue facing the Council is deciding what modifications (if any) should be made to the mandate of UNMISS.
A related issue concerns determining the precise relationship between UNMISS and the IGAD-authorised PDF.
One set of options relates to the mandate of UNMISS. The Council could choose to adopt a resolution either reprioritising the mandate in line with the recommendations outlined by the Secretary-General or revising the mandate more thoroughly, such as removing all capacity-building partnerships with the government. Alternatively, the Council could take no action.
Another set of options relates to the IGAD-authorised PDF. In consultation with IGAD and the AU, the Council could choose to incorporate the PDF within UNMISS, which has the advantage of better coordination. On the other hand, regional states contributing to the PDF may prefer to retain more operational autonomy.
A third set of options concerns sanctions. Possibilities include a general arms embargo, targeted sanctions (asset freeze and travel ban) on individuals obstructing the peace process, or both.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Regarding UNMISS, there are a few interrelated issues yet to be determined by Council members. Some members apparently support a reprioritisation as recommended by the Secretary-General, including a degree of retention of capacity-building functions in partnership with the government; while others seem to be in favour of a more thorough revision of UNMISS, which would narrow its scope even further to core peacekeeping functions. There also seems to be a lack of clarity among Council members regarding the precise rationale for the proposed strength, timing and purpose of phased reinforcements.
As for the PDF, the option of folding it within UNMISS, given the financial constraints of IGAD and regional states, seems to be favoured by a number of actors. Integration of the PDF would also allow for greater coordination than if the PDF operated in parallel to UNMISS. However, several Council members are concerned about the potential for further regionalisation of the conflict through regional states contributing troops. There are also concerns regarding the PDF becoming a de facto party to the conflict if it provides protection of infrastructure.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution
|24 December 2013 S/RES/2132
|This was the resolution that increased the military and police capacity of UNMISS.
|Security Council Meeting Record
|18 March 2014 S/PV.7141
|This meeting concerned the report of the Secretary-General on UNMISS.
|Security Council Letter
|11 March 2014 S/2014/171
|This letter transmitted a press statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea.
|6 March 2014 S/2014/158
|This report of the Secretary-General was on UNMISS.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL RESOURCES
South Sudan Commission of Inquiry established and members appointed (Press Release No 039/2014), AU, 7 March 2014.