December 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 25 November 2015
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In December, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing and revising the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which expires on 15 December.  

Prior to this adoption, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on three documents: the Secretary-General’s report on UNMISS’s activities and developments in South Sudan from 20 August to 9 November; his report reviewing the mission’s mandate and recommending potential future support for the South Sudan National Police Service and the Joint Integrated Police; and his letter containing an assessment of the UN’s role in providing support for security to key infrastructure. 

Key Recent Developments

In August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM in Opposition) leader Riek Machar and Pagan Amum, the representative of former detainees, signed the “Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan”. Since then, the ceasefire has been fragile, with sporadic clashes between government and opposition forces reported in Upper Nile and Unity states.

In late August and early September, shortly after the peace agreement was signed, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and SPLA in Opposition forces clashed near Malakal, the capital of Unity State. On 4 September, following consultations on the security situation with Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNMISS head Ellen Margrethe Løj, Council members issued press elements in which they “called upon the parties to adhere to the permanent cease-fire immediately and unconditionally”.

In the latter part of September, government and opposition forces clashed in Duar, Unity State. Each side has blamed the other for sparking the violence. On 21 September, government spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer alleged that 12 government and 50 opposition troops had died in the fighting, which reportedly occurred over the course of several days. Government and opposition forces have also accused each other of initiating hostilities in Unity State’s Leer County, Machar’s birthplace. According to OCHA, fighting in Leer County between 4 and 22 October led to 80 civilian deaths. 

Both sides continue to be responsible for restrictions on the movement and operations of UNMISS. On 7 October, UNMISS personnel travelling from Juba to Wonduruba in Central Equatoria State were physically assaulted by government troops after being asked to leave their vehicle at a checkpoint. The following day, Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric announced that UNMISS “condemns such hostile acts and calls on the government of South Sudan to investigate the incident immediately and hold those responsible accountable”.

SPLA in Opposition rebels seized a barge on the Nile River in Upper Nile State on 26 October that was transporting 55,000 litres of fuel to a UN facility. Eighteen UNMISS peacekeepers were detained and released on 29 October; an additional 13 UN contractors were not set free until 2 November. Fuel, communications equipment, an inflatable boat and a small number of UNMISS weapons were confiscated during the incident.

In accordance with the peace agreement, between 13 and 18 September the parties held a workshop on transitional security arrangements in Addis Ababa. Among the issues the workshop focused on were establishing demilitarised and cantonment areas and determining the size of forces providing security in Juba, Bentiu, Bor, Malakal and other areas. The SPLM in Opposition did not sign the minutes of the meeting until 26 October—and then with reservations, citing concerns about the government’s proposed military presence of 5,000 troops in Juba.   

On 3 November, the parties signed an agreement in Addis Ababa on transitional security arrangements for Juba and other key towns. According to the agreement, the total number of forces permitted in Juba during the transitional period of 30 months will be 4,830 (3,420 for the government and 1,410 for the opposition). The parties further agreed to deploy a force of 3,000 joint integrated police (1,500 from each side) in Juba, as well as 800 joint integrated police (400 from each side) in each of Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, for a further total of 2,400. On the day this agreement was signed, the SPLA in Opposition alleged that government troops had attacked their positions in Upper Nile State during the prior two days.

On 2 October, President Kiir issued executive order 36/2015, establishing 28 states—in place of South Sudan’s original ten states—within 30 days. Among other things, the stated objectives of the order are:

  • to “devolve power and resource[s]” to rural populations;
  • to “reduce the size of the national government” in order to allow resources to be directed to state and local governments;
  • to “attract, encourage and mobilize national experts to work at the state and county levels”; and
  • to “promote social and economic development amongst…rural communities”.

However, this decision has been controversial. Its constitutionality has been questioned, and it complicates implementation of the August peace agreement, which is based on power-sharing formulas pertaining to ten states. Concerns have been expressed that it creates ethnic enclaves that could exacerbate inter-communal tensions, while also increasing the control of the Dinka—Kiir’s ethnic group—over oil-producing areas of the Upper Nile region.

The SPLA in Opposition has said that the executive order violates the peace agreement. This position has been echoed by several international actors, including the EU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Troika (UK, US and Norway), which have all released statements critical of the executive order.  

Council members met on 4 November to discuss the security situation in South Sudan in consultations. Løj and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet spoke during the meeting. Briefing via video teleconference, Løj said that there had been some positive steps regarding implementation of the peace agreement, referring to the 3 November agreement and the fact that Ugandan forces had nearly completed their withdrawal from South Sudan. At the same time, she expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Unity State. Løj spoke about the 26 October seizure of the barge in Unity State and the detention of UN staff on the barge. Mulet said that to enhance the mission’s ability to protect itself, 212 military liaison officers would gradually assume positions as military observers, and argued that the deployment of unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles would help contribute to the protection of mission personnel.

Human Rights-Related Developments

HRC resolution 29/13 adopted on 2 July stressed the importance of an objective assessment of the human rights situation in South Sudan and called for the deployment of a mission “to monitor and report on the situation of human rights and to undertake a comprehensive assessment of allegations of violations and abuses of human rights with a view to ensuring accountability and in complementarity with the African Union Commission of Inquiry”.

In a 26 October press release, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the first three members of the ten-person mission had arrived in Juba to conduct an assessment of the human rights violations that have affected civilians since the outbreak of violence in the country in December 2013. According to the statement, the assessment will be preliminary, building on the work done by the human rights division of UNMISS, and a report will be presented to the HRC at its next session in March 2016 with recommendations for ways to improve the human rights situation in the country and to ensure accountability for gross violations.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is how to exert leverage on the parties to ensure that they fulfil their obligations under the August peace deal. Since the signing of the deal, there have been some positive developments, including the 3 November agreement on security and the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from South Sudan. Nonetheless, serious concerns remain, including the ongoing fighting, Kiir’s decree establishing 28 states, and indications that the SPLA and SPLA in Opposition are expanding their stockpiles of arms, revealed in the 2 November monthly update by the South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts.

Another key issue is how appropriate resources and personnel can be garnered for UNMISS to perform its mandate effectively. Since the troop and police ceilings of UNMISS were first raised in December 2013, the mission has struggled to attract the authorised number of peacekeepers. Additional troops and police will most likely be required for the mission to support transitional security arrangements, but it is unclear how quickly this can be done. The UK government announced in late September that it would contribute 250 to 300 peacekeepers to the effort in South Sudan.  


In renewing the UNMISS mandate, the Council will most likely retain protection of civilians, human rights monitoring and investigation and the creation of conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance as core elements of the mandate. This would be in addition to supporting the implementation of the peace agreement and of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM).   

Furthermore, the Council might consider:

  • raising the police ceiling to enable UNMISS to help provide security in major towns, such as Juba, Malakal and Bentiu, including in and around UNMISS “protection of civilians” sites, and to provide training to the Joint Integrated Police Units on human rights (including sexual and gender-based violence) and community policing;
  • raising the troop ceiling to include forces to protect CTSAMM monitors and military enablers who can build additional infrastructure for the mission; ;
  • urging states to contribute peacekeepers to the mission if the troop and police ceilings are raised;
  • emphasising the need for child protection advisors to have a presence in all cantonment sites for former combatants; and
  • underscoring the need for donors to provide financial aid to support transitional security, justice and governance processes.

Given continuing violations of the ceasefire, the Council could also consider imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan. 

Council Dynamics

There is widespread concern on the Council over the serious security and humanitarian situation, marked by violations of the ceasefire, food insecurity and displacement. Members are also troubled by attacks against UNMISS personnel and equipment. 

Given the ongoing instability in South Sudan, Council members believe that the protection of civilians, human rights monitoring and the facilitation of humanitarian access should remain core elements of the UNMISS mandate. Nonetheless, there are different views among members regarding the Council’s approach to South Sudan; some of these differences came up during the negotiations on the last UNMISS mandate renewal resolution, which led to abstentions by Russia and Venezuela during the 9 October vote on resolution 2241. A number of members have supported the idea of using unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to support the mission’s early-warning activities. However, Russia and Venezuela have expressed reservations about their potential use, in large part because of the strong objections expressed by the government of South Sudan. UAVs have yet to be used in the country, but resolution 2241 authorises their deployment. 

 The use of sanctions in South Sudan is another controversial issue. Several Council members have believed that the threat of targeted measures (e.g. assets freezes and travel bans) can play an effective role in pressuring spoilers to comply. Some members have also supported an arms embargo, an option raised by Chile and France during the 4 November consultations. However, Angola, Russia and Venezuela reportedly noted at the same consultations that progress had been made in South Sudan and that the Council should not take steps that could be potentially harmful. 

The US is the penholder on South Sudan.

UN Document on South Sudan

Security Council Resolution
9 October 2015 S/RES/2241 This was a resolution adjusting the mandate of UNMISS to support implementation of the “Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan”. The vote was 13 in favour with two abstentions from Russia and Venezuela.
Human Rights Council Document
2 July 2015 A/HRC/RES/29/13 This stressed the importance of an objective assessment of the human rights situation in South Sudan and called for the deployment of a mission “to monitor and report on the situation of human rights and to undertake a comprehensive assessment of allegations of violations and abuses of human rights with a view of ensuring accountability and in complementarity with the African Union Commission of Inquiry.”

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