January 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2015
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

The Council will receive the Secretary-General’s plan, due by 15 January 2016, for “appropriate action to deter and respond to any escalation of violence in and around Juba, in order to effectively protect civilians, and to protect critical infrastructure in Juba”, in accordance with resolution 2252 on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). At press time, it remained unclear when the Council would convene to discuss the Secretary-General’s plan.

The UNMISS mandate expires on 31 July 2016.

Key Recent Developments

A humanitarian and security catastrophe continues to unfold in South Sudan, as the parties have made only limited progress in fulfilling their commitments under the August 2015 peace agreement. There are now 1.66 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan, including the approximately 180,000 provided with physical protection in UN bases. Since the crisis began on 15 December 2013, more than 645,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries. Some 3.9 million South Sudanese, approximately one-third of the population, now face severe food insecurity.

Sporadic violations of the ceasefire have taken place in several parts of South Sudan. Clashes were reported in Western Equatoria state in early December 2015 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)—i.e. government forces—and the “Arrow Boys”, a militia group that has declared its support for the SPLA in Opposition. Several thousand people displaced by these clashes have fled into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which shares a border with South Sudan’s Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria states. Also in early December 2015, SPLA and SPLA in Opposition forces clashed in Western Bahr el-Ghazal, with the opposition alleging that government forces attacked their cantonment area near Wau, the state capital. Fighting between the SPLA and the SPLA in Opposition on 9 December 2015 was reported in northern Upper Nile state; the SPLA announced that it had captured 13 soldiers during the fighting, a claim denied by the SPLA in Opposition.

On 27 November 2015, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), a body designed to oversee implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement, convened for the first time in Juba. Opposition representatives did not attend.

On 15 December 2015, the Council adopted resolution 2252, which renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 31 July 2016. The resolution maintains core elements of the mission’s mandate from resolution 2241 in October 2015, including the protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights, creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and supporting implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement. While 13 members voted in favour of the resolution, Russia and Venezuela abstained. 

The resolution makes some key changes to the structure and mandate of UNMISS, largely consistent with recommendations in the Secretary-General’s 23 November 2015 report, which reviewed the mandate and discussed ways to support the South Sudan National Police Service and the Joint Integrated Police described in the August 2015 peace agreement. The resolution increases the ceiling for military personnel to 13,000 (from 12,500) and for police personnel to 2,001 (from 1,323). The mission’s role in supporting implementation of the peace agreement is augmented; UNMISS is given responsibility for supporting the constitutional review process, at the request of the yet-to-be-formed transitional government of national unity (TGoNU), and with advising and assisting the National Elections Commission of the TGoNU.

On 21 December, 15 SPLA in Opposition representatives arrived in Juba as part of an advance team to discuss fulfillment of the peace agreement and to pave the way for the future arrival of their leader, Riek Machar.

The Council received a briefing, followed by consultations, on South Sudan on 2 December 2015. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the Council that “implementation of the peace agreement is progressing very slowly and with great difficulty”. He added that a “complete and immediate cessation of hostilities would be the first real contribution to the peace process”, and highlighted the tensions that had been created by the 2 October 2015 decision of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to establish 28 states. (This decision complicates implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement, which is based on power-sharing formulas pertaining to the current ten states. Concerns have also been raised that the establishment of 28 states would create ethnic enclaves that could exacerbate inter-communal tensions.)

Council members received a briefing on South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare under “any other business” on 21 December.  The briefing, requested by Russia, focused on the implications of the government’s 12 December order authorising South Sudan’s armed forces to shoot down unauthorised aircraft flying over the country’s territory. Khare reportedly spoke about the measures in place to protect UNMISS aircraft, which might be misidentified by government forces.  

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is how to exert leverage on the parties to ensure that they fulfil their obligations under the August 2015 peace deal. Since the signing of the deal, the implementation of the agreement has faltered and questions remain regarding the level of commitment of the parties to the agreement.

Another key issue is how appropriate resources and personnel can be garnered for UNMISS to perform its mandate effectively. It is unclear how long it will take for the additional troops and police authorised by the Council in resolution 2252 to be deployed.


One option is to request a briefing from Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS Ellen Margrethe Løj, together with UNMISS Force Commander Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, on the Secretary-General’s plan to respond to any escalation of violence in and around Juba.

Another option is to dispatch a small emergency mission to South Sudan that would convene an informal strategy session with IGAD-plus representatives and JMEC chair Festus Mogae, and meet with Kiir and Machar in an effort to promote implementation of the peace agreement.

The Council could also consider establishing a co-penholder system on South Sudan whereby the current penholder, the US, shares the pen with an African member of the Council, thus heightening African engagement on this issue in the Council and possibly bringing a fresh perspective to the matter.

Council Dynamics

There is widespread concern on the Council over the dire security and humanitarian situations, which have been marked by violations of the ceasefire, food insecurity, displacement and access restrictions imposed on UNMISS personnel and equipment. In the context of this difficult environment, a number of members emphasise the need for the parties to step up implementation of the peace agreement.

All members appreciate the severity of the crisis in South Sudan, and they are committed to the key elements of the UNMISS mandate. Nonetheless, there are divergent views regarding the Council’s approach to South Sudan that coloured the negotiations on resolutions 2241 and 2252 on the UNMISS mandate in October and December 2015, respectively. Among other issues, these differences relate to language in both resolutions authorising the use of unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), threatening targeted sanctions on spoilers and calling on the Secretary-General to make available technical assistance for the planned Hybrid Court for South Sudan. The inclusion of language on these matters led to abstentions by Russia and Venezuela during the vote on both resolutions.

The P3 (France, the UK and the US) and some others support the use of UAVs in South Sudan to enhance the situational awareness and early warning capacity of UNMISS. However, Angola, Russia and Venezuela have expressed reservations, noting that their deployment would be disrespectful to the sovereignty of South Sudan, which strongly opposes their deployment. In addition, Russia, along with Chad, has stressed the importance of the consent of neighbouring countries before they are deployed.

The threat of sanctions in South Sudan is another controversial issue. Several Council members (the P3, Chile, New Zealand, Lithuania and Spain) believe that the threat of targeted measures can play an effective role in pressuring spoilers to comply with the peace agreement. However, Angola, Russia and Venezuela maintain that the threat of sanctions is counter-productive and could undermine the limited progress that has been made in the agreement’s implementation.

Regarding the Hybrid Court, some members believe that it is important for the UN system to stay engaged in the development of this institution, which will be a significant element of South Sudan’s fight against impunity. However, Angola, Russia and Venezuela have argued that under the peace agreement, issues pertaining to the Court are the responsibility of the AU and not the UN.

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UN Documents
Security Council Resolutions
15 December 2015 S/RES/2252 This resolution increased the force structure of UNMISS to a ceiling of 13,000 troops and 2,001 police, while adding additional tasks to the mandate.
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.
Secretary-General’s Report
23 November 2015 S/2015/899 This report reviewed the mandate of UNMISS and recommended potential future support for the South Sudan National Police Service and the Joint Integrated Police.
Security Council Meeting Records
15 December 2015 S/PV.7581 This was the meeting at which resolution 2252 was adopted and included explanations of vote by Russia, Venezuela and the US.
2 December 2015 S/PV.7570 This was a briefing on South Sudan.