March 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2019
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council will renew the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) before its 15 March expiration. Prior to this, the Council expects a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.

Key Recent Developments

The level of political violence in South Sudan has “dropped dramatically” since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September 2018, Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer said during a press conference in New York on 5 February. However, ethnic violence continues, and clashes are ongoing in Central and Western Equatoria states between the government’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) and fighters of Thomas Cirillo’s National Salvation Front (NAS). Cirillo rejected the R-ARCSS on the basis of wanting a more federalist system with administrative autonomy for the different regions. On 15 February, UNHCR said that thousands of people had fled into the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape violence in Central Equatoria following clashes between the SSPDF and NAS.

The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians. There were over two million South Sudanese refugees and nearly two million internally displaced persons with 193,219 civilians in six UNMISS protection of civilians (POC) sites, as at 17 January. Since the signing of the R-ARCSS, some refugees have returned to South Sudan, and some people have started to leave UNMISS POC sites or have requested assistance to move back to their homes, Shearer said at the 5 February press conference.

On the implementation of the R-ARCSS, the most recent progress report of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission available at press time, which covers October through December 2018, noted that except for the Independent Boundaries Commission and the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission, all institutions and mechanisms required under the R-ARCSS have been established, but “much work remains to be done”, and funding and technical support are identified as major challenges. The report also notes particular concern over the slow pace of the cantonment, DDR and unification of armed forces, “which are critical before the Transitional Period commences” in May under the terms of the R-ARCSS. While opposition members are present in Juba and participating in the various mechanisms under the R-ARCSS, Shearer expressed concern at the press conference that the momentum in moving the process forward might slow. Opposition leader Riek Machar, currently based in Khartoum, has said he plans to return to South Sudan in May.

On 20 December 2018, the AU Peace and Security Council adopted a communiqué expressing support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD’s) decision to request the Security Council to review the composition and mandate of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), which is part of UNMISS. According to resolution 2406, the current UNMISS 17,000-troop ceiling of includes the RPF at levels to be set by the Secretary-General but not exceeding 4,000 troops. IGAD has proposed that its members, namely Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, contribute troops to fill what it has identified as the RPF’s deficit of 1,695 troops as follows: 499 each from Kenya, Uganda and Sudan and 99 each from Somalia and Djibouti. (The RPF currently includes troops from Ethiopia and Rwanda.)

The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 18 December 2018 by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix; Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten; and Ambassador Joanna Wronecka of Poland, the chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee. Lacroix emphasised that “the peace process is not yet assessed as being fully sustainable and irreversible and will need positive engagement and compromise from the parties and continued reinforcement”. Patten told the Council that sexual violence “escalated dramatically in 2018”, despite the signing of the R-ARCSS. She said that her office, together with OHCHR, had submitted a confidential letter to the chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee with the names of three alleged perpetrators. Patten outlined four recommendations: first, that the government investigate all incidents of sexual violence and share the results with the UN; second, that the Council consistently apply sanctions for crimes of sexual violence, based on the stand-alone designation criteria on sexual violence set out in resolution 2428; third, that comprehensive services be provided to survivors; and fourth, that conflict-related sexual violence be addressed as a central aspect of R-ARCSS and any peacebuilding arrangements.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 12 March, during its 40th session, the Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and to consider its report (A/HRC/40/69). The report concludes that despite the signing of the R-ARCSS, violations including rape and sexual violence continue to occur and may amount to international crimes, including war crimes. The Commission is expected to provide the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a confidential list of names of alleged perpetrators.

Women, Peace and Security-Related Developments

On 7 December 2018, the Security Council issued a press statement condemning “the heinous incidents of sexual and gender-based violence against women near Bentiu” in the northern Unity region of South Sudan. The statement said that according to reports, armed men in military and civilian clothing attacked more than 150 women and girls in government-controlled areas. The statement reiterated the Council’s willingness to impose targeted sanctions against the responsible individuals or entities. On 15 February, UNMISS and OHCHR published a joint report containing the findings of an investigation into these incidents by the UNMISS Human Rights Division, which determined that at least 134 cases of rape or gang rape and 41 cases of other forms of sexual and physical violence occurred between September and December 2018 near Bentiu. Of these 175 cases, 111 victims were women and 64 were girls (some of whom were as young as eight). According to the report, there are reasonable grounds to believe that these attacks were carried out primarily by armed elements of the pro-Taban Deng faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO [TD]) and the government’s SSPDF. The report urged the committee that was established by President Salva Kiir on 19 December 2018 to carry out a prompt, effective and impartial investigation to identify the perpetrators of these attacks and hold them accountable. The response of UNMISS to these incidents included increasing patrols in the area and facilitating the deployment and work of a mobile court in Bentiu to hear cases involving serious crimes, including sexual violence, the report said. The Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security met on 28 February to discuss South Sudan.

Key Issues and Options

An immediate issue for the Council to consider is what changes are necessary to the mandate of UNMISS. The most likely option is for the Council to renew the mandate for one year, maintaining core elements such as the protection of civilians, monitoring and verification of human rights violations, and facilitation of humanitarian access.

In doing so, the Council might consider including language on some of the following:

  • increasing the flexibility of the mission’s political strategy and responsibilities to support the peace process and regional efforts, which could include providing advice and technical support towards implementation of the R-ARCSS;
  • increasing the effectiveness of protection efforts beyond POC sites and the role of UNMISS in facilitating the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons;reviewing the RPF’s mandate and troop levels to adapt to the current political and security environment, including IGAD’s proposal to contribute troops; and
  • emphasising its willingness to consider imposing targeted sanctions against individuals who meet the designation criteria of “planning, directing, or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan” as set out in resolution 2428.
Council Dynamics

Given the fragile and evolving situation in the country, Council members believe that the protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian access, and human rights monitoring should remain core elements of the UNMISS mandate. As many members share concerns over the need to sustain momentum in implementing the R-ARCSS and the need for durable peace, it is likely that they will be in favour of language explicitly authorising UNMISS to provide advice and technical support in this regard.

At the 18 December 2018 briefing, many members expressed concern over the humanitarian situation and high levels of displacement, and several condemned continuing incidents of sexual violence, including Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, the UK and the US. Regarding proposals for IGAD member states to participate in the RPF, Russia in particular welcomed the initiative while others such as France and the UK said certain conditions should be met, such as the need for any forces deployed to be under a unified UN chain of command and comply with UN peacekeeping standards.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
15 March 2018S/RES/2406 This was a resolution extending UNMISS’s mandate for one year.
Secretary-General’s Reports
10 December 2018S/2018/1103 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.
Security Council Meeting Records
18 December 2018S/PV.8431 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.

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