February 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2016
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In early February, Ambassador Fodé Seck of Senegal, chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, will brief the Council on the Committee’s work in an open session, followed by consultations. The Council will consider adopting a resolution to renew the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the related Panel of Experts. The Council is further expected to consider the latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which expires on 31 July 2016.

Key Recent Developments

In late December 2015 and early January, limited progress was made in implementing the August 2015 peace agreement. On 21 December 2015, 15 representatives of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition arrived in Juba as part of an advance team to discuss fulfilment of the peace agreement and to pave the way for the future arrival of their leader, Riek Machar. On 7 January, the parties agreed on ministerial positions for the envisioned transitional government of national unity, based on ratios established in the August agreement: Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), 16 positions; SPLM/A in Opposition, ten positions; the former detainees, two positions; and other political parties, two positions. 

However, in spite of these modest advances, divisions remain over President Salva Kiir’s October 2015 decree to divide South Sudan into 28 states. This was supported by the Jieng Council of Elders, a group of leaders from Kiir’s Dinka ethnic community, but has aroused the ire of the Nuer and Shilluk communities in Unity and Upper Nile states, respectively. They view the decision as an effort to confiscate some of their traditional lands for the benefit of the Dinka. The decree further complicates implementation of the August peace agreement, which is based on power-sharing formulas pertaining to the previous ten states. On 17 January, SPLM in Opposition leader Machar withdrew members of his negotiating team from Juba because of the government’s unwillingness to reconsider its decision on the establishment of 28 states. He indicated that he needed time for further consultations with his team.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian, economic and security crisis continues to unfold in South Sudan. There are more than 1.69 million internally displaced people in South Sudan, as well as approximately 640,000 refugees who have left for neighbouring countries. Some 200,000 of the internally displaced are sheltered in UN bases across the country. Severe food insecurity confronts more than 2.3 million South Sudanese, about 20 percent of the population, while high inflation has significantly increased the price of food.

On 19 January, Eugene Owusu, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, launched the South Sudan Humanitarian Response plan for 2016. Requesting $1.3 billion to address South Sudan’s humanitarian needs in 2016, Owusu underscored the need for the parties to “fully respect the rights of humanitarians to deliver impartial and independent assistance” in an operating environment that he describes as “complex, dangerous, and difficult.”

On 8 January, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that since the beginning of December 2015, more than 15,000 people had been displaced by clashes between the SPLA and local armed groups in Western Equatoria state. Fighting in Western and Central Equatoria has been on the rise in recent months, sparked by tensions between Dinka pastoralists and local communities. UNHCR further reported that almost 200 houses had been burned down in Yambio, a Western Equatorian county, during the clashes.

On 15 January, the Council received the Secretary-General’s plan 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 UNMISS. However, the plan, submitted to Council members in the form of a confidential letter, has not been made public.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 14 January, the Panel of Experts of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee briefed the Committee on its final report. The Panel painted a dire picture of the humanitarian situation in the country, while questioning the commitment of the SPLM and the SPLM in Opposition to the peace process. In its final report, the Panel drew a direct link between the decisions of high-level SPLM/A and the SPLM/A in Opposition leaders and the targeting of civilians and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the conflict in South Sudan. In the report, the panel recommended:

  • targeted sanctions (i.e. an assets freeze and travel ban) on high-level decision-makers responsible for threatening the peace, security and stability of South Sudan;
  • an arms embargo on South Sudan;
  • adherence by companies doing business in South Sudan to transparency standards, including the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the due-diligence guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and
  • cooperation with the Panel by humanitarian actors, who are part of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and Gender-based Violence Information Management System in South Sudan, to work to identify those violating international human rights and humanitarian law.

Media reports indicate that a confidential annex to the report calls for imposing targeted sanctions on Kiir and Machar.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 January, UNMISS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a joint report on the state of human rights in South Sudan since the outbreak of hostilities in December 2013. According to the report, the scale, intensity and severity of human rights violations and abuses increased with the continuation of hostilities, particularly during spikes in fighting in the middle and latter part of 2015, including large scale extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, abductions and enforced disappearances, forced displacement, looting, livestock-raiding, forced recruitment (including of children), extensive destruction of civilian property and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Despite the severity of the human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both sides to the conflict, there are no tangible accountability mechanisms, the report says. It emphasises the need for the immediate cessation of hostilities and establishment of transitional justice and accountability mechanisms that must include comprehensive and credible investigations into the full scope of human rights violations.

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 its signing, the implementation of the agreement has been slow, and questions remain regarding the level of commitment of the parties to the agreement.

Another important issue is to how to ensure that UNMISS achieves full operating capacity. It is unclear how long it will take for the additional troops and police authorised by the Council in resolution 2252 to be deployed.

An additional key issue for the Council is whether to make adjustments to the sanctions regime in considering the renewal of its mandate.


One option for the Council is to adopt a resolution or presidential statement that urges the parties to accept the letter and spirit of the peace agreement, and emphasises the ongoing engagement of the Council in supporting the political process. This could be a useful way to express the Council’s unity of purpose, especially given the abstentions by Russia and Venezuela on the two most recent resolutions on the UNMISS mandate.

Council members could consider holding a meeting with Festus Mogae, the chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (the body overseeing implementation of the peace agreement), to get an update on implementation of the peace agreement and to hear his views on how the Council could most effectively support the process.

Another option for the Council is to dispatch a small emergency mission to South Sudan to discuss implementation of the peace agreement with UNMISS Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj, Intergovernmental Authority on Development-plus representatives and Mogae. This visiting mission could include meetings with Kiir and Machar in an effort to promote the agreement’s implementation.

With regard to the 2206 sanctions regime, the most likely option is for the Council to renew the regime and the mandate of its Panel of Experts. In doing so, the Council could consider giving the Panel a specific directive to investigate the sources of corruption in South Sudan and corruption’s impact on the stability of the country.

Council Dynamics

The issue of sanctions in South Sudan remains controversial. Several Council members believe that the threat of targeted measures can play an effective role in pressuring spoilers to comply with the peace agreement. However, members such as Angola, Russia and Venezuela maintain that additional targeted sanctions under current circumstances would be counter-productive and could undermine the limited progress that has been made in the agreement’s implementation. There are also divisions on the Council regarding the Panel of Experts’ recommendation for an arms embargo.

Regarding the Panel’s recommendation calling for businesses to adhere to transparency standards established by EITI and the OECD, one permanent member reportedly argued in the 14 January Committee meeting that such standards are not accepted by all member states and would therefore violate the sovereign rights of South Sudan.

It appears that members are amenable to the Panel’s recommendation regarding collaboration between the Panel and humanitarian actors.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan.

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UN Documents on South Sudan

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.
3 March 2015 S/RES/2206 This was a resolution creating a sanctions regime for South Sudan.
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.
Sanctions Committee Document
21 August 2015 S/2015/656 This was the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts’ mid-term report.

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