Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to receive a briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the situation in the country. Consultations will follow the briefing.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 December.
Key Recent Developments
The security and humanitarian situations in South Sudan remain dire. Violent clashes between government and opposition forces persist in several areas of the country, including in the greater Upper Nile region and in the Equatorias region. According to OCHA, the number of internally displaced South Sudanese is 1.88 million while an additional 2.1 million people have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. Approximately 6 million people, half the population of the country, face severe food insecurity. The situation for humanitarian aid workers remains extremely dangerous, with 18 aid workers killed since the start of the year.
In an effort to revitalise the peace process and in preparation for its initiative to convene a high-level revitalisation forum, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) consulted separately with government, opposition and civil society actors in October. An IGAD delegation met with opposition leader and former First Vice-President Riek Machar in South Africa on 4 October. Machar expressed his commitment to the IGAD process, his spokesperson said, marking an apparent shift in position from a letter Machar sent to the UN Secretary-General on 14 September. An IGAD Council of Ministers delegation, led by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu, met with President Salva Kiir and his cabinet on 13 October. The South Sudanese officials reportedly said that the government supported the revitalisation forum but asked for clarification of its objectives, which IGAD is expected to give in writing.
On 20 September, the AU Peace and Security Council released a communiqué after its 720th meeting stating that the IGAD-led revitalisation process represents “a last chance for the Parties, to really achieve sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan.” The communiqué said that if the parties continue to delay the full implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement, the PSC “will consider the necessary steps, including sanction measures [sic], that could ensure effective and efficient implementation of the [peace agreement]…bearing in mind the assessment reports of the IGAD-led revitalisation process”.
Deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), which was initially authorised in August 2016 and is expected to comprise 4,000 troops, is continuing slowly. Currently less than 25 percent of the authorised troop strength has been deployed, although an Ethiopian advance company consisting of some 200 personnel arrived in October. The government has long resisted the RPF’s mandated role to protect the Juba airport. During his Council briefing on 26 September, Special Representative for South Sudan David Shearer suggested that the deployment of the RPF would enable UNMISS to project into the Equatorias, an area of significant violence over the past year, to better pursue its mandate to protect civilians.
UNMISS personnel continue to face restrictions of movement, harassment and assault at the hands of government forces. In one incident, government forces assaulted an UNMISS contingent commander who was accompanying an UNMISS convoy headed for the Tomping base in Juba on 21 September. The convoy was forced to reroute to UN House on the other side of the city.
On 17 October, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed the Council on the situation in South Sudan. Lacroix described the difficult security and humanitarian environment in the country. He expressed concern that the credibility of the national dialogue process launched by the government “remains in question owing to significant opposition groups being so far unwilling to join, against the backdrop of the concurrent SPLA [i.e., Sudan People’s Liberation Army or government] military operations”. With regard to IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process, he urged “Council members to use their leverage on all parties and encourage them to engage in this process meaningfully and without any preconditions”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 18 September, the Human Rights Council held an enhanced interactive dialogue on South Sudan, including briefings by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore. The Chairperson of the Commission, Yasmin Sooka, said that the Hybrid Court for South Sudan needed to be established swiftly, along with a commission on truth and healing. The national dialogue would not enjoy countrywide support, as there was a prevailing climate of fear, she said.
The Commission visited South Sudan and Ethiopia from 4 to 15 September and released a statement on 20 September. Noting that it witnessed tens of thousands of South Sudanese women and children arriving in Ethiopia, the Commission said that many of them had been subjected to collective punishment by government forces, based on ethnicity and their perceived support for the opposition. The Commission added that it was especially struck by the numbers of unaccompanied children and that the “humanitarian situation is almost unmanageable”.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council is how to support efforts to revitalise the political process in South Sudan. The Council could adopt a presidential statement or resolution that:
• emphasises the Council’s support for regional efforts to pursue a mediated solution to the conflict;
• strongly condemns violence perpetrated by government forces and armed groups and calls for an immediate ceasefire; and
• condemns restrictions on the freedom of movement of UNMISS personnel and obstacles to humanitarian access.
In an effort to reduce the level of violence and exert leverage on the parties, members could decide to revisit the idea of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions.
Another important 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. A démarche from the Council president to the South Sudanese ambassador regarding delays in receiving clearances and visas from the South Sudanese government for RPF personnel could help address these issues and expedite the deployment of the force.
There is widespread support among Council members for IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process. During the Council’s briefing on South Sudan on 17 October, Uruguay said that “support of the international community, in particular that of the Security Council, is absolutely critical to ensuring the effectiveness of the revitalization agenda”. Bolivia expressed its appreciation for IGAD’s efforts to promote the peace process. In the closed consultations, other members similarly emphasised their support for the IGAD revitalisation initiative.
While all members are concerned about the political and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, there have been differences of view regarding what approach the Council should take to address the crisis in the country. For example, there has been a longstanding divide on whether to authorise an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions in an effort to exert leverage on the parties.
Council members are awaiting the findings of a strategic review of UNMISS that is expected to take place in November and will inform decision-making with regard to the mission’s mandate renewal in December.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolution|
|16 December 2016 S/RES/2327||This extended the mandate of UNMISS for one year and reauthorised 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 Records|
|17 October 2017 S/PV.8071||This was a briefing on South Sudan by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.|
|26 September 2017 S/PV.8056||This was a briefing by UNMISS head David Shearer and Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Chairman Festus Mogae (via VTC) on the Secretary-General’s 90 day report.|