January 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 December 2017
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AFRICA

South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In January 2018, the Council is expected 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 mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 March 2018.

Key Recent Developments

As the conflict in South Sudan entered its fifth year, the political, security, humanitarian, human rights and economic situations remain dire, with 7.6 million people now in need of aid, four million people displaced both inside South Sudan and in neighbouring countries, and six million people lacking enough food to feed themselves. Violent clashes between government and opposition forces in several areas of the country continue, including in the greater Upper Nile and Equatorias regions, as well as high levels of intercommunal fighting. Displacement and violations against civilians could escalate further with improved mobility in the coming months of the dry season.

On 14 December 2017, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2392, extending until 15 March 2018 the provisions of resolution 2327 which renewed UNMISS’s mandate for one year in December 2016. The three-month technical rollover allows for the completion of the strategic review of UNMISS currently underway and for Council members to consider its recommendations. At the initiative of the Secretary-General, a strategic review of UNMISS began in mid-November, one of several comprehensive reviews of peacekeeping operations. An integrated review team recently visited South Sudan to consider the security and humanitarian situations and to consult with a wide range of actors, including the government, international and humanitarian communities, and UNMISS, both in Juba and in more remote parts of the country. The team also travelled to Addis Ababa, where it met with some South Sudanese groups, including the opposition and regional actors. The review team will report back to the Secretary-General, who is expected to submit a report to the Security Council in early 2018.

At the most recent briefing on South Sudan on 7 December, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Council that in a challenging environment, UNMISS had endeavoured to be more robust, nimble and proactive; helped to protect humanitarian facilities, facilitate aid delivery, and evacuate humanitarian personnel; and intervened to protect civilians from abduction, illegal recruitment, sexual violence, and harassment. He added that mission patrols had reached areas where they had long been denied access.

Also on 14 December 2017, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing “strong support” for the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), adding that it “looks forward” to the convening of a fully inclusive forum and substantive progress on the initiative by the end of December 2017. The presidential statement also “underlines that no party should set pre-conditions to participation, and that there must be cost and consequences for those who undermine the HLRF process”. It added that the forum is “a last chance for the parties to achieve sustainable peace and stability”. The statement also took note of the 20 September 2017 communiqué of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). The communiqué stated 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”.

IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais, who briefed the Council for the first time on 7 December 2017, outlined the factors necessary to the forum’s success, including:

• inclusivity and political will;

• cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a permanent ceasefire;

• a unified position on the part of the opposition;

• IGAD’s leadership and credibility as an impartial arbiter;

• a robust enforcement mechanism agreed to by IGAD, the AU and the Security Council;

• gender parity and participation by women;

• participation of Riek Machar;

• coordination of concurrent political initiatives, such as the national dialogue, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement re-unification process, and revitalisation; and

• wider consultations and transparency.

The HLRF officially began with meetings in Addis Ababa from 18 to 22 December 2017, attended by representatives of the parties to the conflict (including all parties to the 2015 peace agreement and “estranged groups” formed after July 2016), the international community, South Sudanese civil society (including youth and women’s groups) as well as representatives from South Sudanese refugee communities. President Salva Kiir reportedly instructed those representing the government not to accept renegotiation of the August 2015 peace agreement. On 21 December 2017, the parties attending the HLRF signed an agreement on cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, and humanitarian access. The agreement required parties to cease all hostile military actions on 24 December 2017. At press time, it was unclear whether the ceasefire was holding with both sides alleging that violations had occurred. The members of the Troika (the UK, US and Norway) issued a joint statement welcoming the agreement, calling for its immediate implementation and for the parties “to reconvene urgently to address the important security and governance arrangements that are essential for peace in South Sudan”. At press time, IGAD was expected to convene in the first week of February 2018 to begin phase two of the HLRF, at which governance issues are expected to be discussed. The AU PSC is scheduled to discuss South Sudan on 19 January 2018.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 8 December 2017, there was a briefing by the chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council, at which Ambassador Fodé Seck (Senegal) briefed on the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee. He highlighted the Panel of Experts’ recommendations that the Council impose a general arms embargo on South Sudan and that the Committee identify those responsible for actions and policies that threaten peace, security and stability in South Sudan.

Human Rights-Related Developments

From 11 to 22 December 2017, two of the three members of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka and Andrew Clapham, conducted the Commission’s fourth field mission to South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. In a 22 December 2017 statement, the Commission welcomed the cessation of hostilities agreement concluded at the HLRF, but said it remains gravely concerned over the lack of accountability for serious crimes with widespread and gross human rights violations being committed by all parties to the conflict. According to the statement, Sooka and Clapham met with numerous victims during their mission who shared harrowing accounts of indiscriminate attacks, revenge killings, torture, abduction of women and children, forced displacement, looting and burning of homes and crops, starvation, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. The Commission will submit a report to the Human Rights Council at its 37th session in March 2018.

Key Issues and Options

An immediate issue for the Council is how to support IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process in South Sudan and what consequences it should impose on those who undermine the process, including implementation of the recent agreement on cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, and humanitarian access concluded by the parties at the HLRF. The Council will also need to determine what role it can play in curbing the collapse of South Sudan as the crisis gripping the country has entered its fifth year and in light of the extraordinarily difficult circumstances UNMISS is forced to operate under.

In an effort to reduce the level of violence and exert leverage on the parties, Council members could decide to revisit the proposals for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions.

The Council could also consider holding a briefing on ways to combat hate speech and incitement to ethnic violence in South Sudan, inviting the participation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, international NGOs with a presence in South Sudan, and key South Sudanese religious figures, among others.

Council Dynamics

Council members share deep concern about the political and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, as set out in the presidential statement adopted on 14 December 2017, including the need for a permanent ceasefire, continuing obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid and attacks on humanitarian workers, attacks against civilians and the military use of hospitals and schools, and the need for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights. While Council members expressed strong support for IGAD’s efforts in the presidential statement, differences arose during negotiations over language on potential consequences for undermining the peace process. These differences were in line with the long-standing divide in the Council over whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. While the presidential statement refers to the need for “cost and consequences for those who undermine the HLRF process”, it remains to be seen whether and how Council members will take this forward in 2018.

All Council members supported the idea to adopt a technical rollover of UNMISS’s mandate in anticipation of receiving the findings of the strategic review, which will inform their discussions on the mandate early in 2018. Following the 7 December 2017 briefing, Uruguay and Bolivia made statements referring to the mandate renewal. Bolivia voiced its support for a short-term extension in light of the strategic review and hoped that, with the progress in the deployment of the RPF, it will be possible to extend and guarantee a more robust presence for UNMISS patrols in areas of major conflict, such as the Equatorias, the Bahr el-Ghazal region and the Upper Nile, as well as greater flexibility of movement. Outgoing member Uruguay expressed confidence that the conclusions of the strategic review “will enable the Security Council to take a responsible decision on the future of the mission”.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan. New Council member Poland succeeds Senegal as chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee in January 2018.

UN Documents on South Sudan

Security Council Resolutions
14 December 2017 S/RES/2392 This resolution extended the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2018.
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
14 December 2017 S/PRST/2017/25 This was a presidential statement on the situation in South Sudan, focusing on IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process.
Secretary-General’s Report
1 December 2017 S/2017/1011 This was the 90-day report on UNMISS.
Security Council Meeting Records
8 December 2017 S/PV.8127 This was a briefings by the chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.
7 December 2017 S/PV.8124 This was a briefing on South Sudan by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; and Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan.