Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expecting a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with his monthly report 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, and the humanitarian crisis continues to intensify amidst widespread insecurity and violence despite the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) on 21 December 2017. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, who visited South Sudan from 15 to 16 May, said in a statement that “ordinary people are suffering on an unimaginable scale”, with aid agencies “subject to harassment, extortion, looting, kidnappings, killings, predatory fees and levies and other blockages across the country—perpetrated by all parties to the conflict”. Seven million people—more than half of the country’s population—will need humanitarian assistance in 2018.
In May, intense fighting took place in the Unity region between government and opposition forces. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba, and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng strongly condemned this escalation of violence in a joint statement on 11 May. Preliminary investigations by the UN have uncovered alarming patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses including killings, pillaging, abductions, rape and gang-rape committed by both parties during the fighting, leading to forced displacement of the population, violations which could constitute atrocity crimes, the joint statement said. Up to 150 UNMISS peacekeepers were rapidly redeployed to the Unity region to boost the mission’s efforts to protect civilians being deliberately targeted by warring parties, according to a 17 May UNMISS press release.
The third round of the South Sudan High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), first convened in December 2017 by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, took place from 17 to 23 May. This followed two postponements since the second round of the Forum, which took place from 5 to 16 February, to allow for shuttle diplomacy efforts and consultations by IGAD in an attempt to bring the parties closer together. The third round continued discussions, begun in February on governance and security arrangements, but ended with the parties unable to agree on a power-sharing proposal put forward by IGAD. The parties did sign an addendum to the CoHA, requiring the full operationalisation of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the body mandated to monitor violations of the CoHA. At press time, next steps in the process had not yet been announced by IGAD.
On 18 May, the US announced that it would initiate a comprehensive review of its assistance programs to South Sudan, including support for the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and other mechanisms intended to support the 2015 peace agreement, saying that the US “will not continue in a partnership with leaders who are only interested in perpetuating an endless war”. On 14 May, the chairperson of JMEC, Festus Mogae, called on IGAD “to make good its promise to hold spoilers accountable”. On 22 May, the chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers released a statement saying that it had received reports of “repeated and serious violations of the CoHA, which calls for urgent and appropriate action against the perpetrators” and announcing the decision to convene and extraordinary session of the IGAD Council of Ministers “to consider the punitive measures that should be taken against violators of the CoHA”. At press time, the extraordinary session had not yet taken place.
The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 8 May by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix; IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais (via video teleconference); and a civil society representative based in Juba, Jackline Nasiwa (also via video teleconference). Ambassador Joanna Wronecka of Poland, chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, briefed on the committee’s work. Lacroix said that there “are no signs of meaningful implementation” of the CoHA and reiterated that “there must be a tangible cost for the continuation of violence”. Ambassador Wronecka announced that the committee would hold its first open briefing on 31 May with regional and interested member states to hear views concerning the Panel of Expert’s final report and the overall implementation of sanctions measures concerning South Sudan. She also said that she intends to visit South Sudan in mid-June.
At press time, the Council was expected to adopt a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts for one year, ahead of their expiration on 31 May. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 30 May.)
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council is what consequences it should impose on violators of the CoHA and others who undermine the peace process led by IGAD. 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 how the Council can receive detailed 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.
Council members share a concern over the continuation of violence and violations of the CoHA and have been following closely the latest round of the HLRF and 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, expressed 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 the outcome of the extraordinary session of the IGAD Council of Ministers; the assessment of the chair of the Committee on South Sudan Sanctions following her visit to the country; the actions and level of commitment of the parties directly following the most recent round of the HLRF; and any next steps in the process announced by IGAD. 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 Resolution|
|15 March 2018 S/RES/2406||This was a resolution extending UNMISS’s mandate for one year.|
|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.|
|28 February 2018 S/2018/163||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|8 May 2018 S/PV.8249||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|12 April 2018 S/2018/292||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts.|