April 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 March 2018
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council expects to receive a briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), followed by consultations. Council members also expect to receive the monthly report from the Secretary-General on violations of the Status of Forces Agreement or obstructions to UNMISS, as requested in resolution 2406.

The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 March 2019.

Key Recent Developments

The situation in South Sudan remains a cause for grave concern. More than four million people are still displaced, half of whom are refugees in neighbouring countries, and more than 200,000 internally displaced persons continue to be protected on UNMISS protection of civilians sites with the assistance of humanitarian partners. Human rights violations and abuses, including incidents of sexual violence, continue at alarming levels with impunity, and the country is on the brink of facing its worst famine yet. More than seven million people in South Sudan (almost two-thirds of the population) could become severely food insecure in the coming months without sustained humanitarian assistance and access, according to a 26 February joint report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme.

The third phase of the South Sudan High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is scheduled for 26 to 30 April. It is expected to involve the continuation of discussions around governance and security arrangements that were begun at the second phase of the forum, which took place from 5 to 16 February. The objectives for the process set out by IGAD are threefold, namely to restore the permanent ceasefire, to resume the full and inclusive implementation of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, and to develop revised and realistic timelines for a democratic election at the end of the transitional period. The first phase of the forum took place from 18 to 22 December 2017 and resulted in the signing of the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA). However, fighting has continued in South Sudan since the signing of the CoHA, although at lower levels than at this time during the dry season in previous years.

On 15 March, UNMISS’s mandate was unanimously extended for one year. The Council decided to maintain the overall force levels of a maximum of 17,000 troops, which includes a Regional Protection Force (RPF) at levels to be set by the Secretary-General but not exceeding 4,000, and no more than 2,101 police personnel. The resolution contains a number of new references to the role of UNMISS in supporting the peace process, following the Secretary-General’s special report on UNMISS’s independent review. In this regard, UNMISS is mandated to use good offices to support the peace process, in particular the HLRF, and to facilitate and support the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body mandated to monitor violations of the CoHA. The resolution further “stresses that the peace process only remains viable with the full commitment by all parties” and notes the Council’s “intention to keep the tasks and composition of UNMISS under active review, based on the possible outcomes of the [HLRF]”. The resolution also expresses the Council’s intention to “consider all measures, including an arms embargo, as appropriate, to deprive the parties of the means to continue fighting and to prevent violations” of the CoHA. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 14 March.) 

The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 27 February by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita and IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 23 March, the HRC extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in South Sudan for one year without a vote (A/HRC/RES/37/31). The resolution requests the Commission to present an oral update at the HRC’s 39th session in September and a written report at its 40th session in March 2019. It requests the Commission to share its report with the AU and all relevant organs of the UN, including UNMISS. 

Key Issues and Options

An immediate issue for the Council is how to support IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process and what consequences it should impose on those who undermine the process. In an effort to reduce the level of violence and exert leverage on the parties, Council members could seek to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. 

Another issue is whether to receive strengthened and more regular updates on the human rights situation in South Sudan. An option in this context would be to invite the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide an update on the human rights situation. Another option would be to hold an Arria-formula meeting with the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in light of its 23 February report, which documents human rights violations against civilians, including massacres; sexual violence; and the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools.

Council Dynamics

During negotiations in March on extending UNMISS’s mandate, Council members generally supported the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s special report on UNMISS’s independent review, in particular to increase the mission’s role in supporting the peace process in a sufficiently flexible manner, given that the process is still underway. However, differences arose in some other areas. On the RPF, which is responsible for “providing a secure environment in and around Juba and in other parts of South Sudan as necessary” according to resolution 2406, Council members including the US, the Netherlands and Sweden were in favour of removing specific references to the number of RPF troops in the mandate to allow for more flexibility regarding the number to be deployed, given that the threat of military conflict in Juba has considerably diminished. However, other members, including Russia and China, sought a clear reference to the RPF’s troop ceiling of 4,000, which was subsequently included in the version adopted. (To date the RPF only comprises approximately a quarter of this number.)

Ethiopia, supported by Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, initially expressed reluctance about the inclusion of language threatening a potential arms embargo, as proposed in the initial draft resolution circulated by the US. However, Council members managed to agree on retaining the language with a minor amendment by Russia, in so far as it serves as a reminder of existing options at the Council’s disposal and did not go so far as to actually commit to imposing such measures. There has been a long-standing divide in the Council over whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. Further Council consideration on this will likely be influenced by assessments of the extent of violations of the CoHA, as well as the level of commitment and progress made by the parties at the third round of the HLRF in April. Assessments as to whether the threat of an arms embargo is sufficient in the present context will also be taken into consideration. 

Another area of disagreement during negotiations was related to human rights reporting. Russia, China, Ethiopia and Bolivia rejected the inclusion of language, proposed in the initial draft circulated by the US, which requested the Secretary-General to provide regular thematic reporting on human rights issues in South Sudan and brief updates on the human rights situation in South Sudan every 60 days. Although several members were unhappy with the eventual removal of this language from the adopted text, a compromise was reached by requesting “strengthened reporting on human rights issues” to be included in the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

Security Council Resolutions
15 March 2018 S/RES/2406 This was a resolution extending UNMISS’ mandate for one year.
Security Council Presidential Statements
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 Reports
28 February 2018 S/2018/163 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.
20 February 2018 S/2018/143 This was the special report of the Secretary-General on the renewal of the mandate of UNMISS.
Security Council Meeting Records
27 February 2018 S/PV.8192 This was a briefing on South Sudan, including on the Secretary-General’s special report on UNMISS’ mandate.