October 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2016
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AFRICA

South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In October, Council members are expected to hold consultations to consider the Secretary-General’s second monthly assessment on the deployment and future requirements of the Regional Protection Force, as well as obstacles to setting up the force and impediments to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in carrying out its mandate. Members may also be interested in discussing the findings of the independent special investigation called for by the Secretary-General, “into the violence in Juba…in July 2016, and the response of the UN Mission in South Sudan.”

The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 December.

Key Recent Developments

The humanitarian and security situation in South Sudan remains dire. There are now 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country while more than 1 million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries since the start of the civil war in December 2013. Nearly 200,000 IDPs now live in protection of civilians sites across the country because of the insecurity outside the sites. Fighting in the Equatoria region has driven more than 103,000 South Sudanese into Uganda since July. On 10 August, OCHA head Stephen O’Brien told the press that severe food insecurity afflicts about 4.3 million South Sudanese in a country of some 12 million people, where hyperinflation of more than 660 percent (as of August) has significantly increased the cost of food. The deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country was highlighted during a high-level meeting on South Sudan organised by OCHA on 22 September on the margins of the General Assembly.

A Council delegation visited South Sudan and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1 to 5 September on a mission co-led by Ambassador Samantha Power of the US and Ambassador Fodé Seck of Senegal. While in South Sudan, Council members met with high-level government officials, including President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Taban Deng Gai; civil society representatives; religious leaders; and UNMISS staff. Council members also visited protection of civilians sites in Juba and in Wau, Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, where they met with IDPs. In Addis Ababa, Council members held meetings with President Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia in his capacity as chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC).

On 4 September, while in South Sudan, the Council agreed on a joint communiqué with the Transitional Government of National Unity. In the communiqué, the government consented to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force as a part of UNMISS, agreeing that troop-contributing countries, UNMISS and the government would continue to “work through the modalities of deployment”. Previously, South Sudan had only consented to the force “in principle”. The government further committed to allow UNMISS freedom of movement in keeping with its mandate, and to create by the end of September a plan with UNMISS “on concrete steps to remove impediments on UNMISS’s ability to implement its mandate…”. As for humanitarian access, the communiqué said that the government would provide “assistance in eliminating illegal checkpoints” and review with the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan ways of “strengthening bureaucratic processes and access to populations in need”.

The government continues to have concerns about the Force. Kiir told Council members on 4 September that he did not want neighbouring states to participate in it. Despite Kiir’s reservations, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have been proposed as potential troop contributors. Since the Council’s visit, Michael Makuei, the Information Minister, has stipulated that South Sudan should be able to determine the number of troops deployed and the types of arms used by the Force.

Shortly after the Council left South Sudan, UNMISS received reports that some of the civil society representatives who had met with Council members in Juba on 3 September had been intimidated and harassed by the government. UNMISS expressed its deep concern about these reports in an 8 September press release.

On 17 August, the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) extracted former First Vice President Riek Machar, who had fled Juba in the midst of the July fighting in the city, from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, together with ten associates and his wife and son. From 24 August to 5 September, approximately 300 additional Machar supporters were also picked up by MONUSCO from the national park. According to the office of the spokesperson for the Secretary-General, these individuals were extracted “on humanitarian grounds…[as] many were wounded, acutely malnourished or in another life-threatening condition”.

Following a meeting in Khartoum from 20-23 September, the opposition branch led by Machar issued resolutions calling for armed resistance against the Kiir government and calling on the “International Community to declare the regime in Juba…a rogue government and a spoiler to peace…”. 

Lam Akol, the former Minister of Agriculture of the transitional government, announced in late September that he was forming a rebel movement called the National Democratic Movement to oust Kiir’s government. After he resigned from his post as Minister of Agriculture on 1 August, he said “there is no more peace agreement to implement in Juba.”

On 14 September, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members on UNMISS in consultations. He said that the mission continued to be hampered by freedom of movement restrictions and that the deployment of the Regional Protection Force would largely depend on the cooperation of the government, echoing points made in the Secretary-General’s confidential 8 September letter to the Council.

Following the meeting, Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen of New Zealand, Council President in September, read out press elements on behalf of the members. Council members said that they expected the government to implement its commitments regarding the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, freedom of movement of UNMISS and a clear improvement in humanitarian access. The members indicated that if the Secretary-General (whose next report is expected in early October) reports that political or operational obstacles are preventing UNMISS from fulfilling its mandate or the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, the Council would “consider the appropriate next steps”. Members further expressed deep concern about the targeting of civil society figures who had met with the Council in Juba, called for the targeting to end and for those responsible to be held accountable.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 16 September, the Panel of Experts of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee briefed the Committee on the Panel’s recent report on security threats facing South Sudan’s transitional government of national unity. The report states that the security threats facing South Sudan are internal in nature, stemming from the actions and policies of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition. In the report, the panel underscored inter-ethnic violence and impediments to the work of UNMISS and its humanitarian partners as key features of the conflict. The Committee was also briefed by Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, on sexual violence in South Sudan.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The three-person Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan established by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in March conducted its first visit to the country from 8 to 15 September. The Commission travelled throughout the country and met with government officials, the judiciary, the legislative assembly, UN actors, civil society and IDPs in UNMISS protection sites. At a press conference in Juba on 15 September, the Commission expressed concern over the lack of progress on the implementation of the peace agreement, the deplorable conditions under which IDPs live, the diminishing space for journalists and civil society members who are subject to intimidation and harassment, the lack of access for UNMISS and humanitarian actors to reach the most vulnerable, the escalation of sexual violence against women and girls and the ongoing impunity and lack of accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations. The Commission proceeded to Addis Ababa to meet with high-level AU officials, IGAD and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and then to Uganda to interact with South Sudanese refugees. The Commission plans to return to South Sudan later this year before reporting to the HRC in March 2017.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is to prevent South Sudan from descending once again into full-blown civil war. The Council will need to consider how it can best support what remains of the 15 August 2015 peace agreement, and what additional steps should be taken for bringing peace to South Sudan.

Another important issue is whether South Sudan will make a good-faith effort to fulfil the commitments made in the 4 September communiqué and what measures should be taken if it does not do so.

Council members—along with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the AU and IGAD—are grappling with several fundamental issues related to the Regional Protection Force, including the force’s composition (both in terms of which states will contribute to it and how it will be configured), the timeline for its deployment, where the force will be located and the need for helicopters to support its operations.  

Another key issue is what impact Machar and his followers will have on the future of South Sudan, given their stated intention to engage in armed conflict against the Kiir government. 

Options

If the Secretary-General reports in his monthly assessment that the government has not made progress in removing impediments on the operations of UNMISS and humanitarian actors and refuses to cooperate with planning for the Regional Protection Force, options for the Council include:

  • imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan; and
  • targeting key political figures responsible for the ongoing violence with an assets freeze and travel ban.

If the Secretary-General reports a significant improvement in government cooperation, the Council may consider adopting a statement recognising the government’s efforts to implement commitments made in the joint communiqué.

Another option is for the Council to engage with Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ellen Margrethe Løj and key IGAD and AU officials in an interactive informal dialogue to discuss strategies for convincing Kiir and Machar to use their influence to end the fighting.

The informal interactive dialogue format could also be used by the Security Council to meet with the HRC’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan before the Commission’s next visit to the country, to share experiences and discuss ideas to more effectively address the human rights situation in the country.    

Regarding the special investigation on the July violence, the Council could consider requesting a briefing from Major General (retired) Patrick Cammaert, who is leading the investigation, on how UNMISS can strengthen its operational procedures if faced with similar crises in the future.

Council Dynamics

Council members share concerns about violence against civilians, the growing humanitarian crisis and obstructions to the operations of UNMISS and its humanitarian partners in South Sudan. During the visiting mission, members were unified in their message to the government that it must implement resolution 2304, which authorised the Regional Protection Force; this view was expressed even by China and Russia, who abstained on the resolution.    

During the 14 September meeting, several Council members suggested that the government needed more time to fulfil the commitments made in the 4 September communiqué.  However, if the government’s cooperation does not improve by the time the Council receives the Secretary-General’s report in October, the idea of an arms embargo will probably be discussed more seriously.   

Views on a possible arms embargo vary widely. France, New Zealand, Spain and the UK appear to be the strongest proponents, maintaining that the Council should implement this measure without waiting to see whether the government’s cooperation improves. While reluctant to support an arms embargo in the past, the US now says that it will support one if South Sudan’s uncooperative behavior continues. Egypt and Russia have long been uncomfortable with the idea of an arms embargo; it is unclear whether and how their positions might evolve if the obstructive behavior on the part of the government continues.  Angola, which in the past has said that it would support an arms embargo, has recently expressed reservations about this course of action.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan, and Senegal chairs the South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents on South Sudan

Security Council Resolutions
12 August 2016 S/RES/2304 This resolution authorised the Regional Protection Force.
3 March 2015 S/RES/2206 This was a resolution creating a sanctions regime for South Sudan.
Sanctions Committee Document
19 September 2016 S/2016/793 This was a Panel of Experts report on security threats to the government.