Expected Council Action
In May, the Council will be briefed on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the South Sudan sanctions regime, followed by consultations. The Council is also expected to adopt a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, both of which expire on 31 May. Council members 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. The country is on the brink of famine as more than seven million people (almost two-thirds of the population) could become severely food-insecure in the coming months. More than four million people are still displaced, half of whom are refugees in neighbouring countries. Human rights violations and abuses, including incidents of sexual violence, continue at alarming levels with impunity. According to the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, “the proliferation of militias with ready access to arms increased the rate of sexual violence, including as a driver of displacement”. UNMISS documented 196 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017, a decrease in reported incidents from 577 verified incidents in 2016 that was ascribed to severely restricted access to conflict zones, the report said.
According to OCHA, seven aid workers from a South Sudanese humanitarian organisation were released on 15 April after being detained for 20 days by forces from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) in Central Equatoria. On 30 April, another ten aid workers were released in Central Equatoria after being held for more than five days. Two humanitarian workers were killed in April, bringing to 100 the total number of aid workers killed since the conflict began in December 2013, OCHA said in a 30 April press release.
The third phase of the South Sudan High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was at press time scheduled to be held from 17 to 21 May, after being postponed from 26 to 30 April for a second time. The third phase 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. At the conclusion of the second phase, the parties had divergent views on the sharing of responsibilities in the Transitional Government of National Unity, particularly in the executive, legislature and judiciary and on transitional security arrangements and the unification of forces. 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, with a surge in violent clashes in Unity, Jonglei and Central Equatoria at the end of April, putting thousands of civilians at risk and compromising the peace process, according to a 27 April UNMISS press release.
IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais and representatives of the IGAD Council of Ministers have been undertaking shuttle-diplomacy efforts to hold consultations with relevant parties and civil society leading up to the reconvening of the HLRF. On 12 April, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat met with former First Vice-President and opposition leader Riek Machar in South Africa. Machar reportedly expressed the commitment of the SPLM-IO to participate in the HLRF.
A delegation of members of the AU Peace and Security Council conducted a mission to South Sudan from 14 to 19 April to interact with stakeholders to assess the challenges in implementing the peace process and to express support for the ongoing efforts by IGAD and the HLRF.
The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 27 February by Wais and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita.
Sanctions Committee-Related Developments
On 11 April, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee was briefed on the final report of the Panel of Experts (S/2018/292). The report concluded that “given the lack of political will to implement ongoing peace efforts, and absent robust pressure from the region and the international community, the situation in the country will continue to deteriorate, with enormous humanitarian and regional security implications”. It reiterated previous recommendations for the Council to impose additional targeted sanctions and an arms embargo.
The committee also received a briefing by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, which said that violations against children had increased considerably compared to the preceding two years; that the recruitment and use of children, by all parties to the conflict, was endemic; and that children in South Sudan were being abused in a systematic and sustained manner that enabled the conflict to continue.
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 that 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.
While the Council has not received a briefing on South Sudan since 27 February, Council members are following the political process and are unified in supporting IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process. However, differences still exist over potential action the Council could take to impose consequences on those who undermine the peace process, in particular an arms embargo or further targeted sanctions, given the long-standing divide in the Council on this issue. The resolution extending UNMISS’s mandate for one year, unanimously adopted on 15 March, 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. Further Council consideration of these measures will likely be influenced by assessments of the extent of violations of the CoHA and the level of commitment and progress made by the parties at the next round of the HLRF. Assessments as to whether the threat of an arms embargo is sufficient in the present context will also be taken into consideration.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 March 2018 S/RES/2406||This was a resolution extending UNMISS’ mandate for one year.|
|24 May 2017 S/RES/2353||This extended the mandate of the South Sudan sanctions regime until May 2018.|
|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.|
|23 March 2018 S/2018/250||This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|28 February 2018 S/2018/163||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|27 February 2018 S/PV.8192||This was a briefing on South Sudan, including on the Secretary-General’s special report on UNMISS’ mandate.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|12 April 2018 S/2018/292||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.|