Expected Council Action
In February, 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 Council also expects to receive the recommendations of the Secretary-General on the strategic review of UNMISS.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 March.
Key Recent Developments
As the conflict in South Sudan enters its fifth year, the political, security, humanitarian, human rights and economic situations remain dire. Nearly four million people—about one in three South Sudanese—have been displaced both inside South Sudan and in neighbouring countries, including 2.4 million children. According to OCHA, nearly 700,000 people fled South Sudan and became refugees in neighbouring countries in 2017. Some 5.1 million people are severely food-insecure with more than a quarter of a million children severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death in 2018, UNICEF said in a 19 January statement.
In this context, deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016 and is expected eventually to comprise 4,000 troops, continues, with 759 troops currently in the country, less than a quarter of the authorised number. At a press briefing on 24 January in the capital, Juba, UNMISS Head David Shearer said the arrival of RPF troops in Juba is enabling UNMISS to extend its presence to more remote parts of the country. Shearer announced the official opening of a new permanent peacekeeping base in Yei, and said that a new “light and nimble” peacekeeping presence is being deployed to the remote town of Akobo in the north-east of the country. UNMISS continues to encounter violations of the Status of Forces Agreement, including among other things, restrictions of movement by government forces, the arrest and detention of UNMISS personnel, and the seizure of UN property.
On 21 December 2017, the parties attending the first phase of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), signed an agreement on cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, and humanitarian access. Signatories included all parties to the 2015 peace agreement as well as new parties to the conflict. Among other things, the agreement required parties to cease all hostile military actions on 24 December 2017. According to the agreement, the Chairperson of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is expected to report any serious breaches of the agreement to the government, the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), and the UN Security Council for their action. The Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers and the JMEC receive this information from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), which is the body mandated to monitor violations of the agreement. The agreement also includes provisions requiring the parties to cooperate with UNMISS in the discharge of its mandate to protect civilians and to fully support the full and rapid deployment and operations of the RPF. Since the 24 December 2017 deadline, there have been numerous allegations of ceasefire violations. As of press time, CTSAMM had released two reports, finding that both the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-In Opposition had violated the ceasefire agreement.
On 12 January, the Chairperson of the AU and the Secretary-General released a joint statement that “strongly condemn[s] the recent violations” of the agreement, and “affirm[s] their intent to support the imposition of consequences, consistent with the AU PSC communiqué of 20 September 2017, should the parties continue to violate their own agreement”. 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”. An AU PSC Summit is scheduled to take place on the margins of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU in Addis Ababa on 27 January. IGAD is expected to convene phase two of the HLRF on 5 February in Addis Ababa to focus on governance issues, transitional security arrangements, and a permanent ceasefire.
On 24 January, the Council was briefed on South Sudan by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix who urged members to speak out clearly against violations of the 21 December 2017 agreement and “to take the decisive actions necessary to impose real consequences.” JMEC Chairperson Festus Mogae briefed (via VTC) and said that three signatories had so far violated the agreement; he similarly urged the Council to impose consequences. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller also briefed and said civilians continue to be killed and forcibly displaced, including in Yei River State, Central Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile, with several thousand people fleeing to Ethiopia and Uganda in January. Humanitarian access remains highly complex and unpredictable despite President Salva Kiir’s decree of 9 November 2017, which ordered free, unimpeded and unhindered movement for humanitarian aid convoys, she said.
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 on 21 December 2017. 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 addressing 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 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. While Council members expressed strong support for IGAD’s efforts in the presidential statement, differences still exist over potential consequences for undermining the peace process. These differences are in line with the long-standing divide in the Council over whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. In this regard, 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. The likelihood of potential Council action will reflect assessments of the extent of ceasefire violations committed and the respective outcomes of the AU PSC Summit at the end of January and the second phase of the HLRF in February.
All Council members made statements at the 24 January briefing, as has been the case in the previous two Council briefings on South Sudan in November and December 2017. Council members were unanimous in welcoming the first phase of the HLRF and condemning violations of the 21 December 2017 agreement. In its statement, the US said “the Council is at a crossroads” and “it is long past time to establish an arms embargo”. The UK reiterated its call for an arms embargo, as did France, which also expressed the need for individual sanctions. The Netherlands also expressed its support for an arms embargo. Equatorial Guinea said “[a]lthough sanctions could serve as a deterrent and break the deadlock between the parties, it is also important for the Council to consider other pragmatic approaches.”
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
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.
|1 December 2017 S/2017/1011
|This was the 90-day report on UNMISS.
|Security Council Meeting Record
|24 January 2018 S/PV.8166
|This was a briefing on South Sudan.