Expected Council Action
In September, the Council expects a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, requested in resolution 2406. Council members will also receive his monthly report on violations of the Status of Forces Agreement or obstructions to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
There has been recent progress in the peace process, followed by some reduction in the fighting which continued despite the cessation of hostilities declared in December 2017 and the permanent ceasefire agreed to in June. The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians. South Sudan faces unprecedented levels of hunger and malnutrition as conflict and broader insecurity further decrease food production and access to food. Combined with the impact of the lean season, which typically runs from May to July, this could cause around 7.1 million people in the country (63 percent of the population) to become severely food insecure in the coming months.
Following negotiations in July facilitated by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed an agreement on 5 August on outstanding issues of governance and responsibility-sharing in Khartoum. Other parties, including the South Sudan Opposition Alliance and Former Detainees, also signed the agreement after initially refusing to do so. According to its terms, during a transitional period, Kiir will remain president, Machar will be first vice-president and four other vice-presidents will be nominated, one by each of the parties specified in the agreement. There will be 35 ministers, ten deputy ministers and 550 members of parliament, in accordance with the number of representatives from the different parties set out in the agreement. An independent boundaries commission will be appointed to consider and make recommendations on the number of states and their boundaries. Al-Bashir and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed the agreement as guarantors, and it was witnessed by representatives of the UN, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Sudan transmitted the agreement to the Council the following day. The agreement was welcomed by the Secretary-General, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, and Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer. The members of the Troika (Norway, the UK and the US) said in a statement on 10 August that “[c]onsiderable challenges lie ahead” and expressed concern that “the arrangements agreed to date are not realistic or sustainable”. Regarding next steps, the statement urged the parties to involve “a wider range of stakeholders, and develop clear plans for the transition period, including how resources will be used in a transparent and accountable way for the benefit of all South Sudanese”. It added, “[c]ritical questions remain, such as how security will be provided in Juba during the transition period and how meaningful checks will be placed on executive power”.
The 5 August agreement deals only with outstanding governance and security issues. The parties still need to sign a final agreement that will address revitalisation of other aspects of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). The IGAD heads of state and government said in a communiqué on 5 August that al-Bashir will continue to facilitate talks between the parties until such a final agreement is signed. On 9 August, the IGAD Council of Ministers convened an extraordinary session in Khartoum on the situation in South Sudan and decided the following day to set 19 August as the deadline for the conclusion of the next round of talks in Khartoum. Talks between the parties were held from 13 to 19 August on the remaining unresolved issues, including Article 4 of the ARCSS, dealing with the number and boundaries of states; the creation of five new ministries; judicial reforms; composition of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee; the powers and functions of the president and vice presidents; and an implementation matrix. On 20 August, the talks were postponed until after the Eid Al Adha holidays to 25 August. At press time, the parties were expected to initial a final agreement on 30 August.
On 10 August, Security Council members held consultations on South Sudan, focusing on food security and developments in the peace process. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom, and Shearer briefed during the consultations. Following this, Council members issued press elements expressing “grave concern about the level of food insecurity”, with the ongoing conflict “being one of the main direct causes” and demanding that all parties allow unhindered humanitarian access. The press elements also welcomed the region’s role in reaching agreement on outstanding governance and security issues but noted that “considerable challenges remain”, including the need for detailed plans for implementation. In addition, they called for immediate implementation of the ceasefire and for the parties to demonstrate commitment to fully implement and finalise a more inclusive and revitalised ARCSS. (For more details, see our What’s in Blue story of 9 August.)
On 20 August, the Secretary-General appointed five members of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 1 July 2019. On 27 August, committee chair Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland) and the coordinator of the Panel of Experts briefed the committee on their respective reports following their visit to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya from 16 to 26 June.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan conducted its fifth field mission to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia, from 20 to 31 August. The Human Rights Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission during its 39th session in September.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how the Council can support IGAD and other regional actors in finalising the peace process and ensuring implementation of the various agreements, given what the Council called in resolution 2428 “continued and flagrant violations” of the ARCSS, the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and the 27 June Khartoum Declaration. An option would be to invite Haysom to brief the Council on a more regular basis in the future. Another option would be to adopt a presidential statement or press statement calling for implementation of the various agreements concluded by the parties, including unhindered humanitarian access and evidence of a sustained, significant reduction in violence. To reduce the level of violence and exert leverage on the parties, Council members could consider imposing, or threatening to impose, further targeted sanctions against those who undermine the process.
Another key issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions imposed by resolution 2428, including in the context of the lack of support for the Council’s imposition of such measures among key regional actors. An option would be to use the various ways in which the Council can receive relevant information, as set out in resolution 2428, to inform the Council’s response in this regard.
The Council could also revisit the idea of holding an Arria-formula meeting with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, given the high levels of violations and abuses of human rights and the Commission’s recent visit. The idea of holding such a meeting was proposed in July, but it has not yet taken place.
Council members share deep concern about the crisis in South Sudan and its devastating impact on civilians and, in this context, continue to be supportive of the roles played by IGAD and the region towards a political resolution of the conflict. While some Council members may be cautiously optimistic about the recent progress made by the parties, other members are more sceptical as to whether, when and how the various agreements will be implemented and if this will translate into an improved situation on the ground. Several members, including the Netherlands, together with Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait and Sweden, are particularly concerned about the current lack of food security and the alarming humanitarian situation.
The longstanding issue of whether the Council should impose an arms embargo was resolved with the adoption of resolution 2428 on 13 July, which passed with nine votes, the minimum number required for adoption under the UN Charter. Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia abstained. However, several members still hold the view that the timing was not appropriate, given the ongoing peace process, and that more should have been done to obtain a higher level of consensus within the Council ahead of the adoption and to coordinate any such efforts with regional organisations and actors.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 July 2018 S/RES/2428||This resolution imposed an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions and renewed the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|14 June 2018 S/2018/609||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|13 July 2018 S/PV.8310||This was the meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2428 with nine affirmative votes and six abstentions.|
|Security Council Letter|
|6 August 2018 S/2018/574||This was a letter from Sudan transmitting the agreement on outstanding issues of governance and responsibility sharing.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|20 August 2018 S/2018/776||This was a letter from the Secretary-General appointing five experts to the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts until 1 July 2019.|