Expected Council Action
In early August, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet expected to brief. The 25 July Secretary-General’s UNMISS report (S/2014/537) will serve as a basis for the discussion. South Sudan will also be a priority for the Council visiting mission to Africa planned for August.
The mission’s mandate expires on 30 November.
Key Recent Developments
South Sudan continues to suffer a severe humanitarian, political and security crisis. With regard to the humanitarian situation, an estimated 1.1 million people have been internally displaced, approximately 405,600 have fled to neighbouring countries and thousands have died since the conflict erupted on 15 December 2013. A cholera epidemic has also gained momentum, infecting 4,692 people and claiming 106 lives as of 21 July, according to the World Health Organization and South Sudan. In addition, food insecurity is prevalent, and the risk of famine looms large. On 23 July, the Director of the Operational Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, said the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is “very desperate…and something that is on a trajectory to develop into a wholesale catastrophe”.
On the political track, the negotiations in Addis Ababa led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) between the government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition have been mired in process, stalled by disagreements between the parties, including about the form and substance of civil society participation, as well as disenchantment with the mediation. At press time, the negotiations, which were suspended on 23 June, were tentatively expected to recommence on 30 July after IGAD mediators met with various stakeholders in Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Juba, including President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, among others.
A debate about the merits of federalism has gained momentum in South Sudan. Several key political and civil society figures—including members of the SPLM in Opposition—have argued that this system of governance would be a constructive alternative to the current political system, which concentrates significant power in the hands of the president. Ateny Wek Ateny, a spokesman for Kiir, said on 24 June that a decision regarding the system of government should be made through a referendum after stability is re-established in the country.
The debate about federalism in South Sudan has led to restrictions on freedom of the press. On 1 July, the Juba-based Citizen Daily newspaper reported that government security forces had warned media outlets not to publish stories about federalism. The newspaper also said that government security personnel raided its offices and confiscated 3,000 copies of the paper on 7 July. On 2 July, government security forces seized copies of the Juba Monitor newspaper, warning that they would incarcerate staff and shut down the paper because of its coverage of federalism.
The security situation in South Sudan also remains tenuous. Violations of the 10 June ceasefire agreement occurred in July. (In addition to this agreement, previous agreements of 23 January and 9 May were also breached.) Mortar and gunfire was reported on 4 and 7 July between government and SPLM in Opposition forces across the Sobat River in Nasir in Upper Nile state. On 20 July, SPLM in Opposition forces and White Army youth attacked government positions in Nasir. Fighting ensued for several days for control of the town before the rebels retreated on 24 July. IGAD, UNMISS and the AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma issued statements deploring the violence and accusing the SPLM in Opposition of initiating it.
Recent media reports have indicated that China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) shipped $38 million in arms to South Sudan in June, including ammunition, machine guns, grenade launchers and assault rifles. Norinco is China’s largest arms producer.
On 10 July, the EU imposed targeted sanctions, including travel bans and assets freezes, on Santino Deng, one of the government’s leading generals, and rebel commander Peter Gadet. In a press release, the EU announced that it had “decided to adopt as a first step restrictive measures against individuals responsible for obstructing the IGAD-led peace process, breaching the ceasefire and committing egregious human rights violations”. The US imposed an assets freeze and travel ban on Gadet and Marial Chanoung, who heads the presidential guard, on 6 May.
Also on 10 July, the AU General Assembly extended the mandate of the AU Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on South Sudan for an additional three months. (Established on 12 March, the CoI was initially provided three months to finalise its activities.) While noting that the findings of its interim report (published in June) are only preliminary, the CoI stressed that healing and reconciliation in South Sudan must be inclusive and that women and others who have been on the margins of public life need to have a voice in determining South Sudan’s future. The CoI urged that deployment of the IGAD Protection Force be expedited, while recognising the sensitivities of assembling this type of multinational force. The CoI also stated that it “encountered some mass graves as well as many individuals who allege having suffered or witnessed commission of crime, including sexual and gender-based violence”.
Hilde Johnson stepped down as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS on 8 July. In her final press conference, Johnson underscored what she called three “diseases” afflicting the country: “the cancer of corruption”; “rule by the gun and not by the law”; and “rule by a self-serving elite.” She added that South Sudan would need fundamental reforms moving forward, especially pertaining to security, justice and financial management. Ellen Margrethe Løj was appointed as Johnson’s successor on 23 July.
The Council held consultations on Sudan-South Sudan on 16 July, with briefings by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan Haile Menkerios (via videoconference) and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos. While Menkerios seemed to question the commitment of Kiir and Machar to the IGAD-led mediation process, Amos discussed food shortages in South Sudan. At the stakeout after the meeting, Amos said that food security assessments in May and June had demonstrated an acute food and livelihood crisis in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
Following the consultations, Olivier Nduhungirehe (Rwanda), delivered elements to the press on behalf of the Council, expressing deep concern about the deteriorating situation in South Sudan and noting that roughly one million people were at risk of famine. The Council stated its alarm at information that both parties continued to violate their 10 June cessation of hostilities agreement by recruiting fighters and acquiring weapons. It further indicated its readiness to consider “appropriate measures, in consultations with countries of the region, against those who will not implement their commitment to peace”.
The Council issued two press statements on 25 July. One welcomed the appointment of the Løj, condemned the fighting in Nasir, and urged the parties to cease hostilities and resume peace talks (SC/ 11492). The other statement expressed grave concern with food insecurity in South Sudan, and urged UN member states to fulfil pledges for humanitarian support made at the Oslo Conference in May and increase their commitments to South Sudan and the region (SC/11493).
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 25 June, Flavia Pansieri, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Council (HRC) that the High Commissioner witnessed a critical level of violence, including ethnically motivated mass slaughter and gruesome and massive revenge killings, during her visit to South Sudan in April. As a result of the violence, UNMISS has put on hold all operational and capacity-building support to the government as suggested in the report of the Secretary-General on UNMISS released on 6 March (S/2014/158). Nevertheless, the HRC adopted a resolution on 27 June under the agenda item of technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in human rights (A/HRC/RES/26/31). Italy, speaking on behalf of the EU before the adoption (without a vote), regretted that the text did not reflect the gravity of the situation on the ground and did not establish a special procedure on South Sudan. The resolution strongly condemned the violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law that have occurred since December 2013 and demanded a halt to all human rights violations by all parties. In addition, the HRC decided to convene a panel discussion on the human rights situation in South Sudan during its next session.
A key issue is how to get the parties to commit to cease hostilities and negotiate a political solution to the conflict in earnest.
Also a key issue is the pace of deployment of the additional forces serving in UNMISS, as well as the disposition of these forces in fulfilling their mandate to protect civilians.
Another important issue is the Council’s role in facilitating humanitarian access, given the dire predictions of famine in the coming months and the restrictions that have been placed on humanitarian access by government and opposition forces. A related issue is how the Council can best encourage donors to expeditiously honour their pledges and enhance their support for humanitarian efforts, given the shortfall in funding for the UN South Sudan Crisis Response Plan.
Options for the Council include:
- using its visiting mission to South Sudan to put pressure on the parties, making it clear to key stakeholders that unless they immediately engage in good faith and serious negotiations, as well as allow unhindered humanitarian access, the international support they have enjoyed so far may be compromised or terminated;
- imposing targeted sanctions on those individuals who undermine the peace process and commit serious human rights violations; and
- welcoming the interim report of the CoI and indicating that the Council is looking forward to its findings moving forward, including its final report later this year.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are gravely concerned about the humanitarian, political and security crisis facing South Sudan. Though supportive of IGAD’s mediation efforts, they are extremely frustrated with South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition for the lack of progress in the peace talks.
The possibility of targeted sanctions against those committing human rights violations and obstructing the peace process has been discussed among Council members. While several members are supportive of this approach, challenges remain to pursuing this course of action. First, there is a desire among some Council members for regional and sub-regional actors such as IGAD or the AU to implement sanctions first, as this would give political support for the Council to follow suit. The difficulty is that, although IGAD threatened to take “punitive measures” (including sanctions) in a 10 June communiqué, it has yet to do so. As a result, some Council members are beginning to sense that the issue of targeted sanctions may be divisive within IGAD, perhaps given that some of its member states have strong economic and political ties to South Sudan. Secondly, some members, notably China and Russia, have expressed their reservations about targeted measures, and it remains unclear how they might respond in the Council, even if the region were to make the first move.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|25 July 2014 S/2014/537||This was Secretary-General’s report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|25 July 2014 SC/11493||This press statement expressed grave concern at the food insecurity in South Sudan.|
|25 July 2014 SC/11492||This press statement condemned the fighting in Nasir town.|