Expected Council Action
The Council expects to receive a report from the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) by 25 July, which it will likely not discuss until early August. However, given the dire situation on the ground, it is possible that South Sudan may be discussed sometime during July, either in a stand-alone meeting or in the context of Sudan-South Sudan consultations.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 30 November.
Key Recent Developments
National and international efforts to resolve the civil war in South Sudan have continued. Stakeholders from within South Sudan—including the government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition and civil society representatives—held a symposium in Addis Ababa on 6-7 June to focus on strategies to resolve the conflict and move forward with a political transition, as called for in the 9 May agreement between President Salva Kiir and the leader of the SPLM in Opposition, Riek Machar. According to media reports, the possibility of a federal governance system and who will lead during the transitional period were among the most contentious matters discussed. On 19 June, while addressing the National Assembly, Kiir said that he would lead the transitional government in South Sudan, arguing that his removal would be a “red line”.
On 9 June, 14 eminent African figures, including 11 former heads of state, wrote an open letter to Kiir and Machar, pleading with them to end the conflict in South Sudan and to “engage in an inclusive peace process” to avoid the continuing violence and the harsh judgment of history.
On 10 June, under pressure from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators, Kiir and Machar agreed to finalise negotiations on the creation of a transitional government of national unity within 60 days and recommitted to stop the fighting. (Three previous ceasefire agreements signed by South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition on 23 January, 6 May and 9 May have been violated.) Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia said that IGAD would consider sanctions, among other measures, if the parties failed to adhere to the agreement. (Ethiopia is the current chair of IGAD and has played a key role in the mediation process.)
The IGAD Heads of State and Government adopted a communiqué in Addis Ababa on 10 June on the situation in South Sudan. They commended Kiir and Machar for recommitting to their 9 May agreement and demanded that the parties respect the cessation of hostilities. They also expressed their expectation that the government and the SPLM in Opposition “immediately endorse modalities for inclusive participation…and…move immediately to inclusive negotiations on substantive issues”.
The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met in Addis Ababa on 12 June and also adopted a communiqué on the situation in South Sudan. Among other things, the PSC welcomed the convening of the stakeholders symposium, expressed deep concern that South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition have not moved ahead with the peace process in a meaningful way, strongly condemned continued violations of the cessation-of-hostilities agreements and reiterated its readiness to implement targeted sanctions and other measures, upon IGAD’s recommendations, on any party that continues to undermine the peace process and fails to uphold its commitments.
The negotiations, which recommenced on 12 June, were suspended by 16 June, with both sides expressing their grievances about the talks. On 17 June, it was reported that Kiir wrote a letter to Desalegn, demanding an apology after IGAD Executive Secretary Mahboub Malim reportedly called Kiir and Machar “stupid” if they believed that the crisis in South Sudan could be resolved militarily.
More broadly, the government has also questioned the objectivity of IGAD. In a 12 June statement, the government called “unacceptable, wrong and unfair for both sides to all the time be uniformly and randomly blamed for any violations”, referring specifically to paragraph 8 of the 10 June IGAD communiqué, which expressed disappointment with both parties for failing “to honour their commitments to date, to engage the peace process meaningfully toward political resolution of the crisis and to bring an end to senseless killings”. The government has also stated that representatives participating in the negotiations should be “non-partisan”, and thus, should not include pro-opposition civil society figures.
Meanwhile, the SPLM in Opposition has also complained about IGAD-led selection process for participants in the negotiations. In a 15 June press release, it expressed the view that there should only be two direct parties—the government and the SPLM in Opposition—in the talks, with all other stakeholders aligning behind the party of their choice. It seems that the opposition also objected to the planned structure of the negotiations, which called for four distinct negotiating groups: the government, the SPLM in Opposition, former SPLM detainees and other political parties.
An IGAD effort to restart the negotiations on 20 June had collapsed by 23 June. The government agreed to reengage in the process, while former high-level SPLM detainees and some civil society actors also participated. However, the SPLM in Opposition continued to boycott the talks because of their concerns about the selection of participants.
In the meantime, the government has suffered some important losses. On 2 June, Francis Nazario, a high-level official in the Foreign Ministry and former deputy ambassador to the UN, resigned after stating in a press statement that the “current leadership in Juba is neither capable nor willing or ready to bring peace to the country now” and stated that the government “is insensitive to the needs and suffering of the people of South Sudan”. In particular, he complained that disrespect for human rights, corruption, and suppression of freedom of speech were characteristic of the present leadership.
On 7 June, having fled South Sudan for Nairobi, 17 members of parliament resigned and announced that they were joining the opposition. They issued a press release referring to Kiir as a “dictator” who has used the parliament as a “rubber stamp institution”. They accused Kiir of stacking the government with Dinka and argued that the government revenues had been stolen and squandered and public goods had not been fairly distributed to the population. They also called for a federal system of government in South Sudan, saying that this would help to ensure that resources and services would be fairly distributed throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains catastrophic. In addition to the thousands who have perished in the conflict, more than 1.4 million are now displaced, including approximately 1,038,000 internally displaced and about 367,260 refugees who have left for neighbouring countries. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 4 million people (more than one-third of the population) is in need of humanitarian assistance. In May, the World Food Program warned that “3.5 million people are now facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity and the risk of famine later in 2014 must now be taken into consideration”. On 6 June, OCHA reported “an alarming increase” in the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Unity State, where measles cases have also been confirmed. A cholera outbreak, which began in Juba in May, has begun to spread, and as of 16 June, 37 people had died from the disease according to the Ministry of Health.
At press time, Council members were planning to hold an informal interactive dialogue on 27 June with Seyoum Mesfin, IGAD’s chief mediator on South Sudan, on the status of the South Sudan peace process.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 June, the Human Rights Council considered a report on South Sudan by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani (A/HRC/26/33/Add.3). Beyani visited South Sudan in November 2013, but the report also takes into account the events that have unfolded since mid-December, which have resulted in the sharp deterioration of the situation and a large-scale internal displacement in and outside the compounds of UNMISS. Beyani recommended that the overcrowding of UNMISS bases be addressed as part of a long-term comprehensive strategy on internal displacement. He said that the safety and security of the displaced population must be the absolute priority for the UN. He commended the adoption of resolution 2155, which bolstered the strength of UNMISS to protect civilians.
One key issue is how to ensure that the government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition honour their commitments to a ceasefire and engage in meaningful negotiations.
Another key issue is the pace of deployment of the additional forces serving in UNMISS, as well as the disposition of these forces in fulfilling the mandate to protect civilians. In particular, it remains unclear what the deployment scheduled will be for the approximately 2,500 troops expected to serve in the IGAD Protection Force under the UNMISS chain of command. These troops will come from Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. (On 19 June, the first of these troops, approximately 90 peacekeepers from Ethiopia, arrived in Juba.)
A related issue regards the anticipated participation of an infantry battalion from China in UNMISS. China has a strong economic stake in the oil industry in South Sudan, and it has been reported that it may primarily be interested in defending personnel at oil facilities. A key question is how amenable these troops will be to protecting civilians not directly linked to these facilities.
Another key issue is the Council’s role in facilitating humanitarian access, given the dire predictions of possible famine in the coming months and restrictions that have been placed on humanitarian access by government and opposition forces.
While the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and people continue to die in South Sudan, it remains unclear at this point whether Kiir and Machar and their proxies have the desire to negotiate in good faith and make the difficult decisions necessary to bring lasting peace to South Sudan. On 10 June, Kiir and Machar agreed to create a transitional government of national unity within 60 days, but who would be included in this government remains an open question as both men have shown little appetite for sublimating their personal ambitions. Given their mutual distrust, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which they could both have a meaningful role in any effective transitional arrangement. Meanwhile, the IGAD-led peace talks remain mired in process, stalled by disagreements between the parties including the form and substance of civil society participation, as well as disenchantment with the mediation.
Options for the Council include:
- signalling a possibility of imposing targeted sanctions against specific individuals in South Sudan who undermine the peace process;
- conducting a visiting mission to South Sudan to put direct pressure on the parties; and
- referring the situation in South Sudan to the ICC.
Given rampant corruption and allegations of unequal distribution of resources in South Sudan, the Council might consider requesting the Secretariat to produce a special report—in consultation with the AU, IGAD, the IMF or other relevant actors—on the sources of economic mismanagement in South Sudan with recommendations for the way forward.
Another option would be to hold an Arria-formula meeting with civil society representatives from South Sudan to get their perspectives on the Addis Ababa peace talks and how civil society can most effectively engage in the discussions.
There is frustration among Council members with the lack of progress being made in the IGAD-mediated negotiations, and some of them appear to question the commitment of the parties to the peace process, given the delays in the talks. Several members continue to be amenable to the notion of targeted sanctions against those obstructing conflict-resolution efforts. This idea may be given additional impetus, considering that IGAD and the AU have both indicated that sanctions should be considered an option. However, it remains unclear whether Russia, which publicly expressed wariness about potential sanctions on South Sudan, would support this approach.
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.|
Additional Useful Resource
Justine Fleishner and Akshaya Kumar, A Path to Peace for South Sudan: An Overview, Enough Project, June 2014.