Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to receive a briefing, likely in consultations, on the situation in South Sudan, in accordance with resolution 2132, which increased the military and police capacity of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to address the outbreak of violence following the 15 December 2013 crisis within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). It is possible that the Council may hold other meetings on South Sudan during the month, depending on how events unfold on the ground.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 30 November.
Key Recent Developments
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan in Juba on 6 May and had a telephone conversation with former Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of the SPLM in Opposition. He emphasised to both Kiir and Machar the importance of making peace and reported during a press conference that same day that they had committed to meet one another. The visit followed in the footsteps of a 2 May visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry during which the US made a similar appeal to both leaders to resolve their differences through dialogue.
The government and the SPLM in Opposition signed a statement on 5 May in Addis Ababa in which they committed to opening up humanitarian corridors and to consider “one month of tranquillity from 7 May to 7 June” to allow for the planting of crops, tending to livestock, safe relocation of civilians.
Kiir and Machar met in Addis Ababa on 9 May, their first face-to-face contact since the conflict broke out on 15 December 2013. They reached an agreement for “an immediate cessation of hostilities within 24 hours of signing” and the establishment of a transitional government of national unity to “oversee a permanent constitutional process and guide the country to new elections”. The agreement was violated over the next few days, with fighting reported in Bentiu, and the two sides exchanging accusations over who broke the ceasefire. Subsequently, the two sides said they had recommitted to the ceasefire. At press time, the level of fighting had decreased since approximately 11 May, although clashes between the parties were reported on 20 May in Upper Nile state.
On 11 May, Kiir announced that the 2015 presidential elections would be postponed until 2017 or 2018, arguing that extra time was needed to conduct a national census and ensure that political stability was achieved.
The US imposed targeted sanctions against Peter Gadet, an SPLM in Opposition commander, and Marial Chanuong, head of the presidential guard, on 6 May. The measures include a ban on travel to the US and the freezing of whatever US-based assets they may hold. While some analysts doubt that Gadet and Chanuong have meaningful (or any) personal or financial ties to the US, the political message sent to other actors in South Sudan is clear.
An international donor conference, co-hosted by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Norway, was held in Oslo on 20 May to raise funds to address the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. More than $600 million was pledged (in addition to $532 million that has already been secured through May). If these pledges are fulfilled, financial support will still fall well short of the $1.8 billion that the UN South Sudan Crisis Response Plan says is required for the remainder of 2014 and for the prepositioning of supplies through March 2015.
The conference took place amidst an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan. Thousands have died, over 1 million have been internally displaced and approximately 370,000 have fled to neighbouring countries since the conflict erupted on 15 December 2013. Of the internally displaced, approximately 83,000 are sheltered in UN camps. On 19 May, the World Health Organization reported a cholera outbreak in and around Juba. According to the UN Crisis Response Plan Update on South Sudan for May, “millions are at risk of death from famine and disease”.
The Council maintained its intensive engagement on South Sudan throughout May. Following a 24 April request by the Security Council for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake an immediate investigative mission to South Sudan (SC/11363), High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, travelled to the country from 28-30 April. Pillay and Dieng briefed the Council on their findings on 2 May (S/PV.7168). Pillay argued that the parties were engaged in a power struggle and had exhibited “little or no regard for the appalling suffering” that the conflict had caused, while Dieng reported that the conflict demonstrated “elements…of risk factors for genocide and other atrocity crimes”.
On 8 May, Council members received a briefing in consultations on South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Military Adviser Lieutenant General Ahmed Maqsood from the Office of Military Affairs in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS, Hilde Johnson, was also available (via video-teleconference) to respond to questions. Ladsous described efforts on the diplomatic track to resolve the conflict while Maqsood briefed on the status of the deployment of forces through inter-mission cooperation. Johnson drew attention to the UNMISS human rights report, circulated to Council members earlier in the day.
On 12 May, the Council held a public briefing, followed by consultations, on South Sudan. Ban briefed the Council on his 6 May visit to the country. Ban warned that “if the conflict continues, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year’s end”. He outlined five priorities: an end to the fighting; a commitment by the parties to allow humanitarian access; international support for humanitarian efforts; justice and accountability, including consideration of a hybrid tribunal; and inclusive nation-building with the participation of all political leaders and civil society.
On 27 May, the Council adopted resolution 2155 on UNMISS. The resolution streamlines the UNMISS mandate so that it focuses on four key tasks: protection of civilians; monitoring and investigating human rights; creating enabling conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement. (Prior to the Kiir-Machar 9 May agreement, South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition had agreed to a cessation of hostilities on 23 January, which was violated by the parties.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 8 May, UNMISS released a report based on more than 900 eyewitness accounts of human rights violations perpetrated since 15 December 2013. The report states that there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed by both parties to the conflict and that crimes against humanity have occurred. Commenting on the report, Pillay said on 9 May that she recognises in this account many of the precursors of genocide. She urged Kiir and Machar to prevent any further violations by forces under their command and to make it clear that anyone committing such crimes will be arrested and prosecuted.
A key immediate issue is how the Council can help stop the fighting.
A related issue is how to support the peace negotiations between South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition in Addis Ababa.
Also a key issue is the Council’s role in facilitating humanitarian access, given the dire predictions of a possible famine in the coming months.
One option for the Council is to adopt a statement:
- demanding that the parties adhere to the 9 May ceasefire agreement;
- deploring the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan;
- commending the support provided at the Oslo conference; and
- appealing for additional aid to reach the $1.8 billion in donations that is needed “to save lives, prevent famine and avert the loss of another generation of South Sudanese children in 2014”, according to the UN Crisis Response Plan for South Sudan.
A related option is for the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council to include in the communiqué issued at the conclusion of their 6 June meeting a strong message demanding that the parties comply with the ceasefire agreement and allow for humanitarian access.
Other potential options include:
- considering targeted sanctions against those in South Sudan that undermine the peace process;
- conducting a Council visiting mission to South Sudan to put pressure on the parties; and
- referring the situation in South Sudan to the ICC (a less likely option).
The Council continues to maintain its intensive focus on South Sudan. Council members are disappointed with Kiir and Machar for plunging the country into civil war and are disturbed by violations of the Status of Forces Agreement by the government of South Sudan. There is also widespread support for the Intergovernmental Authority for Development mediation process. While the Council is generally united in its approach to the conflict, there are some differences of perspective. One main area of disagreement regards the issue of accountability. Several members believe that the Council should consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence, and some (Australia and France) have mentioned referral to the ICC as a viable option. Others, notably Russia, are wary of sanctions. Some members would likely also be opposed to a referral of South Sudan to the ICC.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolution|
|27 May 2014 S/RES/2155||This resolution revised the mandate of UNMISS.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 May 2014 S/PV.7172||This was the briefing by Ban on his trip to South Sudan.|
|2 May 2014 S/PV.7168||This was the briefing by Pillay and Dieng on their trip to South Sudan.|