May 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2016
Download Complete Forecast: PDF

South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In May, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the 2206 South Sudan sanctions regime, which expires on 1 June.

Key Recent Developments

Opposition leader Riek Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as First Vice President on 26 April. Machar’s long awaited return to Juba, initially scheduled for 18 April, had been postponed several times, largely due to disagreements between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) on the number of SPLM-IO soldiers that could be brought to the capital city and the types of weapons they should be allowed to transport. Following Machar’s arrival in Juba, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Machar’s return and called for the immediate establishment of the transitional government of national unity in a statement attributed to his spokesman.

Recent tensions and clashes have been reported between SPLM and the SPLM-IO. On 6 April, fighting broke out between SPLM and SPLM-IO forces in Western Bahr el Ghazal state. Both sides sustained casualties, and buildings were destroyed near Mboro village. The fighting followed reports of a build-up of SPLM forces and attacks by helicopters in the area.

Local officials have claimed that 90,000 civilians have fled to Wau town in recent months because of conflict in the vicinity. The SPLM has alleged that it is attacking “criminals” in Western Bahr el Ghazal, not opposition forces. Media reports further indicate that government forces have carried out attacks on SPLM-IO cantonment sites in Western Bahr el Ghazal, as high-level government representatives, including Army Chief of Staff Paul Malong Awan, oppose the cantonment of opposition troops in this state.

Clashes between government and opposition forces were also reported in Rupkotni county in Unity state on 13 and 14 April.

The opposition accused Malong Awan of orchestrating the transfer of armed youth on 9 April from his native Bahr el Ghazal state to Juba in breach of the peace agreement. On 12 April, SPLA spokesman Lul Ruai Koang acknowledged that a troop movement had occurred but said that it constituted “a routine administrative matter” and suggested that soldiers move through Juba to other locations.

A group of men from the Murle ethnic group crossed on 15 April from South Sudan’s Jonglei state into the Gambella region of Ethiopia, where they killed more than 200 people, kidnapped more than 100 children and seized approximately 2,000 head of cattle before returning to South Sudan. Ethiopia has reportedly been in discussions with South Sudan regarding options for a joint military campaign against the perpetrators, which will include efforts to rescue the abducted children.

The Council has devoted considerable attention to South Sudan in recent weeks. On 31 March, the Council held a briefing to hear from Festus Mogae, the chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (via video teleconference); Stephen O’Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Mogae said that “the act of forming [the transitional government] will not automatically relieve the humanitarian, development, political, military and economic crises” facing South Sudan, and urged the parties and the international community to continue to work toward “a more robust peace” in the country. Løj said that fighting continued in various parts of the country, despite the peace agreement. She underscored the importance of forming the transitional government and noted that UNMISS was providing air transport to Juba for opposition forces as part of the transitional security arrangements agreed by the parties. O’Brien emphasised the severity of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. “Civilians continued to be targeted, attacked and displaced,” he said, while restrictions imposed on humanitarian access remained a significant problem. Gilmore briefed on the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right’s assessment mission to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan. She highlighted the need for accountability to break the cycle of violence in the country, calling on the AU to promptly establish the hybrid court envisioned in the August 2015 peace agreement. Following the public briefing, Council members discussed the situation in consultations.

The Council adopted a technical rollover resolution on 7 April that renewed the mandate of the South Sudan sanctions regime for an additional seven weeks until 1 June. A presidential statement was adopted in conjunction with the resolution, indicating the Council’s intention to assess progress by 30 April on steps taken by the parties as outlined by the Council in its 17 March presidential statement. Those steps involve the implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement and a proposal for a national boundary commission to review the number of states in South Sudan and their boundaries, among other issues.

On 19 April, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations on the postponement of Machar’s return to Juba. Following the meeting, China in its capacity as Council president delivered elements to the press in which members expressed serious concern with the delay in Machar’s return to Juba and called for the transitional government of national unity to be formed quickly.

The Council held a briefing, followed by consultations, on UNMISS and the situation in South Sudan on 26 April. During the briefing, Ladsous said that Machar’s return to Juba was a positive development, but cautioned that political and security trends needed to change for peace to take hold. He highlighted the formation of the transitional government of national unity and the implementation of the transitional security arrangements as critical next steps in the peace process. Following the meeting, Council members issued elements to the press urging the parties to quickly form the transitional government. 

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 agreement. In this context, the Council has in recent months been considering whether to make adjustments to the sanctions regime. In large part, technical rollover resolutions adopted in February and April were intended to give the Council more time to consider its options and present a more unified position in order to have a constructive impact on the peace process.

Another issue for the Council is the ongoing violence in South Sudan and the toll that it continues to take on the civilian population.


The most likely option for the Council is to adopt a resolution extending the South Sudan sanctions regime. In doing so, the Council could consider:

  • imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan; and
  • mandating the Panel of Experts to investigate the sources of corruption in South Sudan and corruption’s impact on the stability of the country.

If the transitional government of national unity is formed, an option would be to adopt a presidential statement welcoming this development and urging the parties to work together to solve the security, humanitarian and economic difficulties facing the country. If the transitional government of national unity is not formed and the parties continue to violate the peace agreement, another option would be to dispatch a Security Council mission (possibly in conjunction with the AU) to deliver stern messages to the parties on the need to fulfil their commitments.

Council Dynamics

Council members continue to follow developments in South Sudan closely, as reflected by the presidential statements adopted on this issue since March. While some members are more optimistic than others about the incremental steps taken to implement the peace agreement, there was a general recognition among members during the consultations on 26 April that considerable challenges remain for peace to take hold in South Sudan.   

A significant issue of discussion among members in recent months has been whether the Council should pursue an arms embargo in South Sudan. This was a recommendation made by both the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts in its January final report and by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its March report about allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Sudan. It appears that some members believe that an arms embargo should be pursued even if the parties form a transitional government of national unity. Others, however, including at least one veto-wielding permanent member, are not supportive of this course of action, particularly at what they believe is a critical juncture in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan, while Senegal is the chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

Sign up for SCR emails
UN Documents on South Sudan

Security Council Resolution
7 April 2016 S/RES/2280 This was a technical rollover resolution renewing the mandate of the South Sudan sanctions regime until 1 June.
Security Council Presidential Statement
7 April 2016 S/PRST/2016/3 This indicated the Council’s intention to assess progress by 30 April on steps taken by the parties as outlined by the Council in its 17 March presidential statement.
Security Council Meeting Record
26 April 2016 S/PV.7678 This was a briefing on South Sudan.

Subscribe to receive SCR publications