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 31 May. The Council is also set to renew the mandate of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts. In addition, the Council will most likely consider the Secretary-General’s 30-day assessment of the deployment and future requirements of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), obstacles to setting up the force, and impediments to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in carrying out its mandate.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 December 2017.
Key Recent Developments
The security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains dire, and the political process has stalled amidst the increasing fragmentation of the conflict. Fighting continues to be reported in numerous parts of the country between government and various anti-government forces. The fragmentation of opposition groups has changed the dynamic of the conflict, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA, the South Sudanese army) now appears to be seeking to recapture and reassert government authority over areas previously held by the various opposition groups. In recent months, there have been increasing reports of deliberate attacks against civilian populations. Food insecurity—brought on by conflict, high prices and poor harvests—affects some 4.9 million people. The famine, previously identified as focused in the former Unity state, has spread to include Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where 290,000 people are facing starvation. A further 1 million South Sudanese are on the verge of famine. In addition to the 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan, approximately 1.7 million refugees have fled to neighbouring states, including nearly 200,000 since the beginning of 2017.
In early April, there was an increase of fighting between the SPLA and opposition forces in Eastern Equatoria. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that more than 6,000 South Sudanese fled to northern Uganda following violence in the town of Pajok that began on 3 April. There were unconfirmed reports that SPLA soldiers deliberately targeted civilians, particularly members of the Acholi ethnic group. UNMISS reported that it was initially blocked from reaching Pajok by SPLA forces.
UNMISS reported on 10 April that renewed fighting in Wau had led to at least 28 deaths. Initial reporting suggested the violence has primarily consisted of Dinka militias targeting members of the Lou and Fertit ethnic groups. Approximately 17,000 new internally displaced people have entered the Wau protection of civilians site, while an additional 5,000 people have joined the approximately 8,000 IDPs already seeking shelter at the Wau cathedral.
Attacks on humanitarian personnel remain a major impediment to the delivery of humanitarian relief to vulnerable populations. On 8 April, Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Eugene Owusu issued a statement demanding that parties to the conflict uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians and ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers. The statement followed several attacks on humanitarian personnel in recent weeks.
South Sudan’s Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau announced on 3 April that South Sudan would not proceed with its intention to raise the fee for foreign worker permits from $100 to $10,000. The increase would have been a significant barrier to external humanitarian agencies.
On 6 April, the Secretary-General appointed Rwandan Lieutenant General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi as UNMISS force commander. Lieutenant General Kamanzi replaces Kenyan Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, who was relieved in November following attacks on UNMISS and protection of civilian sites in Juba in July 2016. During the intervening period, Chinese Major General Chaoying Yang served as acting force commander.
The deployment of the RPF—initially authorised in resolution 2304 of 12 August 2016—which had been expected to begin in late April, has been further delayed by requirements imposed by the South Sudanese government. The force, comprising an expected 4,000 soldiers, was to facilitate humanitarian access in Juba, protect the airport and “key facilities in Juba”, and engage forces preparing to or engaging in attacks against UN sites and personnel, humanitarian actors or civilians.
On 25 April, the Council was briefed on the situation in South Sudan by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS, David Shearer. This was the first time Shearer briefed the Council since taking up the post in January. Shearer focused on recent incidents of violence, the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and progress UNMISS has made in strengthening its protection activities.
Human Right-Related Developments
In a statement on 23 April, the director of the human rights division of UNMISS, Eugene Nindorera, said that the lack of accountability for human rights abuses remains one of the “biggest challenges” in South Sudan. Following an UNMISS investigation into alleged human rights violations by government forces and aligned armed groups in Wau on 10 April, Nindorera said that no one was currently being detained in connection with the attack and that it is “more important than ever before that people are held accountable for the crimes they have committed.” In this regard, Nindorera welcomed the move by the governor of Wau State to establish a committee to investigate the attack and hold the perpetrators accountable.
A representative for Ambassador Fodé Seck (Senegal), chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, briefed the Council on 25 April on the final report of the Committee’s Panel of Experts. In the report the Panel advocated an arms embargo on South Sudan, and additional targeted sanctions, in addition to other measures.
The key issue for the Council is whether it can present a unified approach aimed at ending violence and revitalising the political process. Lack of unity may be undermining the Council’s leverage with the government, including its response to ongoing reports of violence against civilians and impediments to humanitarian access.
A related key issue is whether to make adjustments to the sanctions regime. The Council is divided over the proper approach to sanctions in South Sudan, and significant alterations to the current sanctions regime may not receive sufficient support to be adopted.
A further important issue is how to allay the devastating impact on civilians of the ongoing fighting and the acute humanitarian crisis.
Another issue for the Council is how to achieve deployment of the RPF and ensure the force’s ability to fulfil its mandate once deployed. This remains a relevant concern because of government-imposed restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNMISS and the government’s objections to the RPF’s mandate, particularly regarding protection of Juba’s airport. The delays in the RPF’s deployment since its authorisation also raise the question of how the RPF could now best contribute to the broader UNMISS mandate.
One option is for the Council to pursue the actions outlined in resolution 2304, namely the imposition of an arms embargo on the country or an assets freeze and travel ban on key figures responsible for the ongoing violence. Although there appears to be insufficient support for an embargo, the Council could focus on targeting the assets of those individuals identified as pursuing violence against civilians, UN and humanitarian personnel.
Another option would be for the Council to meet with Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom to hear how the Council could further support efforts by the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in pursuit of a political solution in South Sudan.
A further option would be for the Council to define a united purpose regarding South Sudan through the adoption of a resolution or presidential statement including language that:
- demands an immediate cessation of hostilities;
- reminds the government of its responsibility to protect civilians from atrocity crimes;
- emphasises the Council’s united support of regional efforts in pursuit of a mediated solution to the conflict; and
- condemns restrictions on the freedom movement of UNMISS personnel and obstacles to humanitarian access imposed by the government.
A consensus statement or resolution on South Sudan by the Council could be followed by negotiation of a joint statement with the AU Peace and Security Council and IGAD. Such a statement could reinforce regional efforts in pursuit of a political solution.
The Council lacks unity of purpose in its approach to South Sudan. At the heart of the division of the Council on South Sudan is a disagreement over the present nature of the crisis and conflict. An increasing number of reports that SPLA forces are targeting civilians and hindering UNMISS have led several Council members to identify the government of South Sudan as the primary belligerent. Other members, however, have accepted the government’s argument that recent acts of violence against civilians by SPLA forces are the result of a lack of discipline or problems with command and control.
All Council members continue to express concern about the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan with a particular focus on those areas affected by famine and recent incidents of violence. Obstacles to humanitarian access are also a common concern for Council members. The Council is, however, divided over how to respond to the South Sudanese government’s approach to humanitarian access. Some Council members, such as Russia, have welcomed the government’s efforts, while others, including the UK, and the US, have raised concerns that, notwithstanding its professed commitment, the government continues to hinder humanitarian efforts.
The question of whether to impose an arms embargo and additional targeted individual sanctions remains a further point of division within the Council. Several members, including France, the UK and the US, have reiterated their belief that imposition of an arms embargo would contribute to a reduction of violence and provide leverage that could be used to restart the political process. Opponents of an embargo, most prominently Russia, have argued that imposition of an embargo would undermine efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict. A draft resolution to impose an arms embargo received only seven affirmative votes in December 2016, along with eight abstentions. (A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted, assuming a veto is not cast by one or more of the permanent members of the Council on a matter that is not procedural.) It is unclear whether a similar resolution would now garner enough support to be adopted.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan while Senegal chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|16 December 2016 S/RES/2327||This extended the mandate of UNMISS for one year and reauthorised the Regional Protection Force.|
|12 August 2016 S/RES/2304||This resolution authorised the Regional Protection Force.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|23 March 2017 S/PRST/2017/4||This statement emphasised the need for a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|25 April 2017 S/PV.7930||This was a briefing by the head of UNMISS, David Shearer.|
|23 March 2017 S/PV.7906||This was a high-level briefing on South Sudan.|
|10 March 2017 S/PV.7897||This was a briefing on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Lake Chad Basin.|
|16 March 2017 S/2017/224||This was Secretary-General’s report on UNMISS.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|13 April 2017 S/2017/326||This was the final report of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|
|23 December 2016 S/2016/1085||This was the draft resolution on an arms embargo and targeted sanctions that failed to receive the necessary support to be adopted. It received seven affirmative votes (France, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, the UK and the US) and eight abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal, and Venezuela).|