Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to renew the mandate of the mission, which expires on 30 May. Also in May, the chair of the 2206 Sanctions Committee on South Sudan, Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile) is expected to provide his first briefing to the Council on the Committee’s work.
Key Recent Developments
A security and humanitarian catastrophe is ongoing in South Sudan. Heavy fighting has continued in South Sudan in recent months, especially in Upper Nile and Unity states, and some experts warn that the parties will try to maximise their military gains before the onset of the rainy season in June. Tens of thousands have reportedly died since the civil war began in December 2013, although there do not appear to be precise figures.
With regard to the humanitarian situation, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated on 10 April that approximately 1.5 million people have been internally displaced, while more than 519,000 refugees have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Currently, approximately 117,000 of the internally displaced are sheltering in UN bases, too fearful to return home; this represents the highest number of people seeking protection at these bases since the start of the conflict. An estimated 2.5 million people in the country face severe food insecurity, and as Toby Lanzer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, warned on 2 April, this figure could rise if the conflict continues to restrict the ability of people “to move freely to access their land, plant crops, tend to their livestock and trade without fear of violence”.
The economy of South Sudan also continues to deteriorate, given the fall in global oil prices and the downturn in oil production in conflict-affected areas. This has raised concerns about South Sudan’s ability to pay its soldiers and other government employees.
No progress has been made on the political front, and questions have been raised about the future direction of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led mediation process. On 1 February, with IGAD mediating, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed a deal in Addis Ababa in which they agreed to finalise a peace agreement by 5 March and come to terms on the formation of a government of national unity.
The government and the opposition sides reconvened in Addis on 19 February, with negotiations continuing through the 5 March deadline. Key differences could not be bridged. The opposition requested that Machar serve as a first vice president in the transitional government and that he maintain his own forces during the envisioned two-and-a-half-year transitional period. The government did not agree to either request. It also argued that the opposition’s call for a federal system of government should be addressed by the proposed transitional government of national unity, rather than in the negotiations.
On 18 March, Haile Menkerios, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and Special Representative to the AU, briefed Council members in consultations. He told them that hardliners on both sides of the South Sudan conflict were committed to a military solution.
The Council adopted a presidential statement on South Sudan on 24 March in which it expressed profound disappointment over the failure of Kiir, Machar and other parties to reach agreement on transitional arrangements for a government of national unity by the 5 March deadline. It further expressed concern at the suffering caused by the conflict, including through death and displacement, and highlighted the need to fight impunity.
Since the failure of the late February-early March round of negotiations in Addis, there have been efforts to create an “IGAD-plus” process— involving IGAD, the UN, the AU, several non-IGAD African member states (Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa), China and the Troika (Norway, the US and the UK)—to reinvigorate the mediation. According to a 25 March article in Peace and Security Council Report, this new approach “is expected to address the weaknesses of IGAD in terms of overcoming the divergent security and economic interests of its member states and applying unified pressure on the warring parties”. On 31 March, Michael Makuei, a spokesman for the government of South Sudan, stated that it does not want the Troika countries or the UN engaged in the mediation because “they are the very people and countries demanding sanctions against the people and the government of South Sudan.”
On 24 March, the South Sudanese parliament extended President Salva Kiir’s office term for three more years. The term of the president was originally set to expire on 9 July, and elections expected in June have been cancelled.
On 3 March, in an unsuccessful effort to put pressure on the parties to finalise a peace agreement before 5 March, the Council adopted resolution 2206, in which it underscored its willingness to impose a travel ban and an assets freeze for an initial period of one year on individuals and entities designated by a Sanctions Committee that would be established. (The travel ban applies to individuals, while the assets freeze applies to individuals as well as entities such as government, opposition or militia groups.) A Panel of Experts is in the process of being established to support the work of the Committee. While no listings were made in the resolution, the Council indicated that targeted measures would apply to those responsible for, complicit in or engaged directly or indirectly in actions or policies threatening the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.
In a presidential statement issued on 24 March, the Council reiterated its intent to impose any sanctions that might be appropriate, including an arms embargo or targeted measures against senior figures who have threatened South Sudan’s peace, security and stability, as well as to adjust the measures in resolution 2206 based on the actions.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović briefed the Security Council on 24 February on his visit to South Sudan from 1 to 6 February (S/PV.7392). During his briefing, Šimonović emphasised the importance of the Council remaining seized of the question of accountability for past and present violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. He stressed the importance of encouraging the South Sudanese government to release the findings of its own investigations and for the AU to release the report of the Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed during the conflict. He said those reports may form the basis of an accountability process. In the meantime, he added, the Security Council may wish to encourage human rights-centred confidence-building measures between the parties, which could include cooperation in tracing missing persons; help in family reunification; and access to, and the release of, all conflict-related detainees by both sides.
During its 28th session in March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, prepared in cooperation with UNMISS, on the situation of human rights in South Sudan from 15 August to 15 December 2014 (A/HRC/28/49). According to the report, the intensity of fighting decreased, but UNMISS continued to receive reports of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. These violations included the killing and wounding of civilians by all parties to the armed conflict, sexual violence in the context of the hostilities and cyclical intercommunal clashes, large-scale recruitment of children and military use and occupation of schools and hospitals.
The report concludes that accountability measures taken by national actors have been few and inadequate, with serious concerns as to whether such measures meet international standards. Recommendations to the Security Council include ensuring that the findings of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan are published and widely disseminated and that its recommendations are implemented. The HRC also considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights summarising the panel discussion held on 24 September 2014 on the situation of human rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/28/53). The report contains specific recommendations for improving the human rights situation in South Sudan addressed to the parties to the conflict, as well as IGAD, UNMISS and the HRC.
A key issue is whether IGAD-plus, with new actors added to the mediation process, would be able (or willing) to exert leverage on the parties to negotiate a settlement to the conflict.
Another important issue is whether the newly formed South Sudan Sanctions Committee will be able to achieve the consensus required to begin to impose targeted sanctions on spoilers in South Sudan.
Another key issue is the ongoing restrictions on access imposed by the government and the opposition on UNMISS and other actors in the midst of the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Also a key issue is how to maintain security in the overcrowded protection of civilians sites.
A related issue is whether—and at what point—it is possible for UNMISS to safely escort internally displaced persons from the protection of civilians sites to their places of origin, given concerns about intercommunal violence in the midst of the ongoing conflict.
A further related issue is how effectively UNMISS is able to patrol outside the protection of civilians sites.
The most likely option is for the Council to adopt a resolution renewing UNMISS for an additional six months without significant changes to the mandate, given the absence of a peace agreement. In adopting the resolution, the Council may consider:
- highlighting the importance of patrolling along key roads and river routes, in an effort to facilitate the flow of food to markets to help mitigate the impact of food insecurity;
- underscoring the need for accountability for human rights violations and attacks on UN personnel and humanitarian workers;
- reiterating condemnation of the violations of the Status of Forces Agreement and the obstacles to humanitarian access; and
- urging donors that have yet to fulfil their pledges made at the 9 February Nairobi conference on the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan to do so (as of 9 April, $296 million, or 56 percent, of the $529 million pledged had been contributed).
The Council could also consider requesting that the Secretary-General appoint a special envoy dedicated specifically to the South Sudan negotiation process. (Haile Menkerios has followed the South Sudan negotiations and reported to Council members on the Addis talks; however, he has a large portfolio focusing on Sudan-South Sudan relations, as well as serving as the UN’s Special Representative to the AU.)
Another option would be for the Council to request a briefing on options for accountability in South Sudan. (The UN Secretariat is finalising a report on such options, but it is unclear when this report will be shared with Council members.)
An option for the South Sudan Sanctions Committee is to begin listing high-profile spoilers in the government and the opposition.
Most Council members appear seriously concerned with the ongoing fighting in South Sudan, the attendant humanitarian and human rights consequences and the lack of progress on the political front, but the Council is not united on how to approach the crisis in the country.
Most Council members believe that targeted sanctions are a viable tool against spoilers in South Sudan. However, although the Council achieved consensus in adopting resolution 2206, Russia and Venezuela have both stated their discomfort with the potential use of targeted sanctions in this situation. As such, it is unclear if, and at what point, the South Sudan Sanctions Committee will be able achieve the consensus required to apply the measures to any individual or entity.
The Council has also stated both in resolution 2206 and in the 24 March presidential statement that it could impose an arms embargo as a means to exert leverage on the parties. Nonetheless, some members have appeared reluctant to support such an approach since the onset of the crisis, and it is not clear whether their positions on this matter have shifted.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 March 2015 S/RES/2206||This was a resolution creating a sanctions regime for South Sudan.|
|25 November 2014 S/RES/2187||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNMISS for an additional six months.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|24 March 2015 S/PRST/2015/9||This was a presidential statement that reiterated the intent to impose sanctions, including an arms embargo or targeted measures against senior figures who have threatened South Sudan’s peace, security and stability.|
|17 February 2015 S/2015/118||This was the report of the Secretary-General on UNMISS.|
|27 March 2015 A/HRC/28/49||This was on the human rights situation in South Sudan from 15 August to 15 December 2014.|
|8 January 2015 A/HRC/28/53||This report provided a summary of a 24 September 2014 panel discussion on human rights in South Sudan.|