Expected Council Action
In October, Security Council members expect to receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s monthly assessment of the deployment and future requirements of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and impediments to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in carrying out its mandate. The briefing will be followed by consultations.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 December.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the country remains a cause for serious concern while the humanitarian crisis continues to escalate. Violent clashes persist in almost all areas of the country despite the limited mobility imposed by the rainy season, in particular in the Upper Nile region and around Pagak, the de facto headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition, as well as in the Equatorias.
According to OCHA, the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries now exceeds two million, and another 1.87 million people remain internally displaced. About 11,000 internally displaced persons have left UNMISS civilian protection sites since the start of the year, but UNMISS continues to shelter some 213,000 people at seven sites. The situation for humanitarian aid workers remains extremely dangerous, with 18 aid workers killed since the start of the year.
Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016, is continuing. So far, approximately 650 of the authorised 4,000 RPF troops have arrived in the country. Ethiopian troops who will participate in the RPF are expected to arrive in October. Despite the South Sudanese government’s stated consent to the deployment of the RPF, critical issues have yet to be resolved, including continued government resistance to the RPF’s mandated role to support the protection of Juba International Airport. In this context, Special Representative and UNMISS head David Shearer met with President Salva Kiir on 6 September and emphasised the need for UNMISS and the government to work together and establish clear lines of communication.
South Sudan was one of three situations on the agenda at the 11th joint consultative meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Addis Ababa on 8 September. At the meeting, members of both Councils were in general agreement that the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan needed to be implemented before elections could take place. They were also supportive of the convening of the High Level Revitalization Forum by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), expected in October. According to the 12 June communiqué of the Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD Heads of State held in Addis Ababa, the purpose of the forum is to discuss concrete measures to restore a permanent ceasefire, advance implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement, and develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transition period.
On 20 September, OCHA, Norway and the AU convened a high-level humanitarian event on South Sudan. On 21 September, UN Secretary-General António Guterres co-chaired with the AU and IGAD a closed high-level meeting on South Sudan in the margins of the General Assembly to consider the revitalisation of the political process in the country.
On 26 September, Special Representative Shearer and Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Chairman Festus Mogae (via VTC) briefed the Council. Shearer emphasised the need for international actors to engage South Sudan with a unity of purpose to support the peace process. Mogae said that little substantial progress had been made in the implementation of key provisions of the August 2015 agreement, and spoke about preparations for the Revitalization Forum.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In his opening statement at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 11 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked that “[t]he country is being quite simply destroyed”. He said that “there is a critical need for accountability for violations” and expressed concern over “appalling levels of violence and sexual violence by all parties to the conflict [and] reports of arbitrary detention of people perceived to be critical of the government”. He added that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan must be established and welcomed the HRC’s decision to charge the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan with gathering evidence with a view toward prosecuting perpetrators. During its 36th session, the HRC held an enhanced interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
Key Issues and Options
The immediate issue for the Council is how to support IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process, either by exerting pressure on the South Sudanese government and opposition to implement a ceasefire and embrace an inclusive process or by combining both incentives and disincentives, which has so far proved difficult.
Another issue is how much impact the deployment of the RPF, which is mandated to provide a secure environment in and around Juba and other areas in extremis, will have on improving the security environment in South Sudan.
The Council could consider adopting a presidential statement that:
- strongly condemns violence perpetrated by government forces and armed groups in South Sudan and calls for an immediate ceasefire;
- reminds the government of its responsibility to protect civilians, especially from atrocity crimes;
- condemns restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNMISS personnel and obstacles to humanitarian access; and
- emphasises the Council’s support for regional efforts in pursuit of a mediated solution to the conflict, including its support for the High Level Revitalization Forum.
The Council remains divided on its approach to South Sudan. While there is general agreement on the gravity of the situation and the need for a political solution to the crisis, there does not seem to be a unified strategy for how to exert leverage on the parties. Some Council members, such as France, the UK and the US, believe that the situation requires a firm response, including the imposition of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions. In its remarks at the Security Council’s consultative meeting with the AU PSC in Addis Ababa on 8 September, the US said that the IGAD revitalisation process was the last chance for salvaging the peace agreement and reiterated that if the situation in the country did not change, further targeted sanctions and an arms embargo may be needed. Russia, however, made clear at the same meeting that it did not think this would be particularly effective.
On 6 September, the US placed sanctions on three individuals: Deputy Chief of Defense Force and Inspector General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Malek Rengu, South Sudanese Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth, and former Chief of Staff of the SPLA Paul Malong.
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 Statement|
|23 March 2017 S/PRST/2017/4||This statement emphasised the need for a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan.|
|15 September 2017 S/2017/784||This was the 90-day report on UNMISS.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 September 2017 S/PV.8056||This was a briefing by UNMISS head David Shearer.|