Expected Council Action
In August, although not on the programme of work at press time, a briefing on South Sudan may be requested given that the Council was last briefed publicly on the issue on 28 June. Council members also expect to receive the Secretary-General’s monthly report on obstructions to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). An Arria-formula meeting with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, established by the Human Rights Council in March 2016, may also take place in August.
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
On 13 July, the Council adopted resolution 2428, imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan until 31 May 2019 and designating two additional individuals to be subject to targeted sanctions: Paul Malong Awan, the former chief of staff of South Sudan’s army who became a rebel leader, and Malek Reuben Riak, former deputy chief of general staff of South Sudan’s army. The resolution, adopted with nine votes in favour and six abstentions (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia) also renewed the South Sudan sanctions regime until 31 May 2019 and the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 1 July 2019. It expressed “deep concern at the failures of South Sudan’s leaders to bring an end to the hostilities” and condemned the “continued and flagrant violations” of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) and the 27 June Khartoum Declaration, signed by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, which among other things declared a permanent ceasefire. It also expressed the Council’s intent to monitor and review the situation every 90 days and said that the Council was “prepared to adjust the measures contained in this resolution…at any time in light of the progress achieved in the peace, accountability, and reconciliation process…and implementation of the parties’ commitments, including the ceasefire”. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story from 12 July.)
Ahead of the adoption of resolution 2428, on 5 July, Council members were briefed in consultations by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on the Secretary-General’s assessment of the security and political situation in South Sudan, requested by resolution 2418. The assessment observed that there had been credible reports of fighting involving parties to the peace agreement during the 31 May to 27 June reporting period and that UNMISS had documented “gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, particularly in central and southern Unity”. It further noted that UNMISS patrols came under direct fire three times during the reporting period. It also included a report by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body mandated to monitor violations of the CoHA, which said that there had been 11 verified incidents of fighting between the parties since 1 June, with 12 other potential incidents under investigation. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story from 3 July.)
Amid reports of continued fighting in South Sudan, Machar and Kiir had further face-to-face meetings in July. These followed the signing of the Khartoum Declaration on 27 June, which stipulated that a “Revised Bridging Proposal”—intended to address key outstanding power-sharing and security issues—would be concluded by the end of the current round of talks in Khartoum and that following this, a pre-transitional period of 120 days and a transitional period of 36 months would commence, during which the country would prepare for national elections. On 7 July, Kiir and Machar continued their talks in Uganda, facilitated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This meeting resulted in a transitional governance and power-sharing proposal being presented to the parties. On 25 July, representatives of the Transitional Government of National Unity, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition and other political parties initialled an “Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance” in Khartoum. At press time, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (with the exception of one group) and Former Detainess had refused to initial the agreement. A formal signing ceremony was expected on 5 August.
On 19 July, members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council held their 12th annual joint consultative meeting in New York. The agreed agenda for the meeting included the situation in South Sudan. Also on 19 July, a joint communiqué was issued following the meeting, strongly condemning the repeated violations of the CoHA, expressing serious concern over reports of violations of the permanent ceasefire declared in the Khartoum Declaration and the need to hold the violators accountable. The communiqué urged the South Sudanese parties to make further compromises on outstanding issues that result in a credible, inclusive and sustainable agreement.
On 26 July, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten briefed the Council under “any other business” on her trip to South Sudan earlier that month.
On 10 July, the Secretary-General extended the appointments of four of the five members of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 14 August. On 25 July, the committee was briefed by the Acting Coordinator of the Panel of Experts and discussed the sanctions measures imposed by resolution 2428.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 10 July, UNMISS and OHCHR published a joint report documenting what appear to be deliberate, ruthless and brutally violent attacks on civilians, particularly against women and children, by the government and aligned forces and by armed youth in parts of Unity State. The report found that between 16 April and 24 May at least 232 civilians were killed in attacks, and many more injured. The report also documented the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with at least 120 women and girls raped or gang-raped. At least 132 others were abducted. As a result of these attacks, more than 5,000 people sought sanctuary at UN protected sites in Leer and Bentiu, another 8,000 are estimated to be hiding in bushes and swamps, and 18,000 have sought refuge in Mayendit town. Also on 10 July, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on the government to halt all attacks against civilians and to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan to ensure accountability for gross human rights violations.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions as set out in resolution 2428, including in the context of key regional actors not being supportive of the Council’s imposition of such measures. An option would be to seek more effective use of the various ways in which the Council can receive relevant information, as set out in resolution 2428. These include encouraging the South Sudan Sanctions Committee to consider visits to selected countries by the chair or committee members or both; requesting the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to share relevant information with the committee; and inviting the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, mandated in the CoHA to report serious violations of that agreement, to brief the Council on steps taken by the parties to implement the CoHA and the Khartoum Declaration as well as the facilitation of unhindered and secure humanitarian access.
A key issue is how the Council can support the ongoing peace process and regional efforts in this regard. As noted in the Secretary-General’s assessment, “the outcome of regional and international efforts to deliver a political settlement of the conflict is yet unclear” and “will require the continued political engagement of the Security Council”. An option would be to invite Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom, who has been supporting the peace process at the regional level, to brief.
Whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions remained very controversial during the negotiations on resolution 2428, as with resolution 2418. Both resolutions received nine votes, the minimum required for adoption. The issue has been a long-standing one. On 23 December 2016, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions; it received seven affirmative votes (France, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, the UK, the US and Uruguay) and eight abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal and Venezuela).
The timing of an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions was a particular area of disagreement during the negotiations on resolution 2428. Those Council members supportive of such measures questioned the commitment of the parties to the peace process and maintained that those responsible for the violence should be held accountable. Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia, all of which abstained on resolutions 2418 and 2428, maintained that the peace process is at a critical juncture and would be undermined by coercive measures. These members also emphasised the importance of following the lead of regional actors involved in the peace process, which have maintained that now is not the appropriate time to pursue sanctions.
In its explanation of vote on 13 July, the US said that while it fully supports the regional peace process, the resolution is a way to protect civilians, end violence and show the parties “that we are fed up with the delays and the stalling”. (The US, as penholder, is responsible for drafting resolutions on South Sudan.) Ethiopia stressed that it was not the appropriate time for sanctions, saying they would have very serious implications for the peace process and that the Council taking action without synchronising its position with regional organisations reflected a lack of cooperation between the Council and regional actors. Côte d’Ivoire, which was the only member besides Peru not to give an explanation of vote, voted in favour of resolution 2428 as it did with resolution 2418. In so doing, it did not vote with the other two African members on the Council.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 July 2018 S/RES/2428||This was a resolution imposing an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions and renewed the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|31 May 2018 S/RES/2418||This resolution renewed the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 July 2018.|
|14 June 2018 S/2018/609||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 July 2018 S/PV.8310||This was the meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2428 with nine affirmative votes and six abstentions.|
|31 May 2018 S/PV.8273||This was the meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2418.|
|Security Council Letter|
|19 July 2018 S/2018/736||This was the joint communiqué following the 12th annual joint consultative meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council at which the situations in South Sudan and the DRC were discussed.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|10 July 2018 S/2018/685||This was a letter extending the appointments of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 14 August.|