Expected Council Action
In December, the Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, as requested in resolution 2406, and a briefing on South Sudan sanctions. Council members expect to receive the Secretary-General’s report by 10 December and 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
Some reduction in fighting has been reported since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, clashes have continued in parts of the country despite the cessation of hostilities declared in December 2017 and the permanent ceasefire agreed in June. The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians.
On 31 October, thousands of South Sudanese gathered in Juba for a ceremony to celebrate the signing the previous month of the R-ARCSS, which coincided with the return of opposition leader Riek Machar to the country. The ceremony was attended by Machar, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, leaders from various opposition groups, and high-level representatives, including the presidents of Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. Prior to and following the ceremony, several political detainees and prisoners of war were released, including James Gatdet, former spokesman for Machar, and William John Endley, a former military adviser to Machar.
According to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission’s third and most recent progress report available at press time on the implementation of the R-ARCSS, some progress was made, but several of the benchmarks set out in the agreement’s implementation matrix were missed. The 5 November report said that tasks implemented included inaugural meetings of the National Pre-Transitional Committee and the National Constitution Amendment Committee, and ratification of the R-ARCSS by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. Outstanding tasks included compliance with the permanent ceasefire, establishment of the Independent Boundaries Commission and the Technical Boundaries Commission, release of all prisoners of war and political detainees, establishment of the Joint Transitional Security Committee and disengagement and separation of forces in close proximity.
On 16 November, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers held an extraordinary session on South Sudan, at which it adopted a communiqué directing “the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan to reach out to the South Sudanese stakeholders and any warring groups who are not signatories to the R-ARCSS to join in its implementation; otherwise, they shall be labelled spoilers of the peace process”. It also called for “the submission of a report by the Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers to the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council on concrete proposals to revise the mandate and structure of [UNMISS’ Regional Protection Force] the (RPF) to allow the participation of all IGAD Member States”.
The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict conducted a mission to South Sudan from 4 to 7 November, led by the chair, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden). The mission followed the September publication of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in South Sudan, covering October 2014 to June. The report documents “alarming levels of all six grave violations against children committed by all parties to conflict,” including recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence and abductions, numerous incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals, and high levels of denial of humanitarian access to children.
The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 16 November. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui (via video teleconference) and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reported on their joint visit to South Sudan from 7 to 9 October. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 15 November.)
On 15 November, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee was briefed by the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts on its interim report, which said that while it is too early to assess the full impact of the arms embargo, imposed by resolution 2428 on 13 July, “a number of violations have been noted”. The report also noted that Sudan had deployed troops to protect oil fields in Unity State, while Uganda had sent forces to Central and Eastern Equatoria. The report refers to “alarming levels of sexual and gender-based violence, food insecurity and grave human rights abuses, including against children.”
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 17 September, during its 39th session, the Human Rights Council received an oral update from, and held an interactive dialogue with, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. This followed the commission’s field mission to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia in August. Commission Chairperson Yasmin Sooka presented the oral update, saying that the commission had “heard testimonies of wanton killings and numerous accounts of brutal sexual violence”, adding that women and girls “urgently deserve justice and compensation as well as access to medical and trauma support services”. Sooka said that while the commission welcomed the signing of the R-ARCSS, it is concerned that “violence continues to contribute to increased levels of insecurity”. The need to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan was also highlighted, among other issues.
On 18 October, UNMISS and OHCHR jointly published a report on violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law reportedly committed against civilians in the states of Gbudue and Tambura, in Western Equatoria, between April and August. The report documented attacks by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) on at least 28 villages, a settlement of internally displaced persons and a refugee camp, including killings, abduction, rape, sexual slavery, forced recruitment, and destruction of property. During these attacks, at least 887 civilians were abducted, mostly women (505) and girls (63), and 24,000 were forced to flee their homes. According to the report, UNMISS’ Human Rights Division has identified three SPLA-IO commanders who allegedly had effective command and control of the forces committing these abuses, which may amount to war crimes. At the same time, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces carried out their own military operations, which were characterised by serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, such as unlawful destruction of civilian property and forced displacement, as detailed in the report. Among the report’s recommendations were calls for accountability and access to basic services, particularly medical and psychosocial support for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, and for the provision of economic alternatives for young fighters.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how the Council can support the parties in South Sudan as well as IGAD and other regional actors in the implementation of the R-ARCSS. An option would be to adopt a presidential statement or press statement calling for full implementation of the agreement and expressing the Council’s support in this regard, as well as calling for unhindered humanitarian access and adherence to the permanent ceasefire agreed in June. Council members could also 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. An option would be to use the various ways in which the Council can receive relevant information as set out in the 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.
Council members share deep concern about the crisis in South Sudan—which is about to enter its sixth year—and its devastating impact on civilians and, in this context, are supportive of the R-ARCSS and the roles played by IGAD and the region towards a political resolution of the conflict. While some Council members may be optimistic about progress made by the parties, other members are more critical about the need for this to translate into an improved situation on the ground.
At the 16 November briefing, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US said perpetrators or spoilers of South Sudan’s peace process should be targeted with sanctions. Regarding proposals for IGAD member states to participate in the RPF, the US emphasised that any efforts to restructure UNMISS is the Council’s prerogative, but Russia welcomed the initiative, saying that it “stood ready to consider all reasonable proposals”. Several members expressed concern about reports of civilians being targeted, human rights abuses, sexual and gender-based violence, child recruitment, food insecurity and impediments to humanitarian assistance. Bolivia and Peru called for the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
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 2018S/RES/2428||This resolution imposed an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions and renewed the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|25 September 2018S/2018/865||This was the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in South Sudan.|
|11 September 2018S/2018/831||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|16 November 2018S/PV.8403||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|26 November 2018S/2018/1049||This was the interim report of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|