Expected Council Action
In May, the Council expects to adopt a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime, which expires on 31 May. The Council is also set to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the South Sudan Sanctions Committee by 31 May to avoid its expiration on 1 July, as set out in resolution 2428.
Key Recent Developments
The overall levels of political violence remain diminished since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September 2018. However, ethnic and intercommunal violence continues, as well as clashes between government and opposition forces in the Greater Upper Nile and the Greater Equatoria regions. The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians.
According to the terms of the R-ARCSS, 12 May marks the end of the eight-month pre-transitional period and the start of the 36-month transitional period, with elections to be held 60 days before the end of this transitional period. At press time it was uncertain whether the parties would meet this deadline. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar met with Pope Francis at the Vatican from 10 to 11 April. A statement released by the Vatican described the goal of the meeting as “an occasion for encounter and reconciliation, in a spirit of respect and trust, to those who in this moment have the mission and the responsibility to work for a future of peace and prosperity for the South Sudanese people.” On 13 April, Machar told reporters that the pre-transitional period should be extended by six months to unify and deploy defence forces, demilitarise the capital Juba and other cities, and agree on the devolution of power and the release of political prisoners. At press time, Machar had yet to return to South Sudan.
On 15 March, the Security Council adopted resolution 2459, extending the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 15 March 2020 and maintaining the overall ceilings of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel. The four core elements of the mandate remain largely unchanged, namely protecting civilians, creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, monitoring and investigating human rights, and supporting the peace process. However, resolution 2459 added language calling on the mission to “support the facilitation of the safe, informed, voluntary, and dignified return or relocation of [internally displaced persons] from United Nations protection of civilian sites, in coordination with humanitarian actors and other relevant stakeholders, and within existing resources”. In this regard, at the most recent Council briefing on South Sudan on 8 March, Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer told the Council that “for the first time in three years, people are expressing a willingness to return home” and emphasised that the mission “will support those who want to leave…consistent with international principles and humanitarian non-governmental organization guidelines that returns must be voluntary and dignified.” Regarding support for the peace process and implementation of the R-ARCSS, resolution 2459 included language specifying “advice or technical assistance, within existing resources” as part of the mission’s mandate. A preambular paragraph underlined that the R-ARCSS “is an important step forward in the peace process that provides a window of opportunity to achieve sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan”. Resolution 2459 was adopted with 14 votes in favour. Russia abstained, in part because of its opposition to the resolution only noting and not welcoming the R-ARCSS. (See our What’s in Blue story of 14 March.)
On 13 July 2018, the Council adopted resolution 2428, which imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan until 31 May 2019 and designated two additional individuals as subject to targeted sanctions, namely a travel ban and assets freeze, bringing the total number of listed individuals to eight (six individuals were listed in 2015). The resolution also decided on two additional designation criteria for the imposition of targeted sanctions against individuals for “planning, directing, or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan” and for “engagement by armed groups or criminal networks in activities that destabilize South Sudan through the illicit exploitation or trade of natural resources”. Resolution 2428 received the minimum of nine votes required for adoption absent a veto from a permanent member, with abstentions by six members (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia). The adoption of resolution 2428 was preceded by the adoption of resolution 2418 on 31 May, deciding that if the Secretary-General reported “fighting or lack of a viable political agreement”, the Council “shall consider applying” targeted sanctions to six individuals identified in an annex to that resolution, or an arms embargo, or both. The adoption of resolution 2418, which received the same minimum number of nine votes, thus paved the way for the adoption of resolution 2428 based on the findings of the Secretary-General, including that there had been credible reports of fighting. (For more details, see our What’s in Blue story of 12 July 2018.)
The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 8 March by Shearer, as well as by Angelina Nyajima Simon Jial, who founded the civil society organisation Hope Restoration South Sudan. (See our What’s in Blue story of 7 March.)
Council members expect to receive the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the South Sudan Sanctions Committee by 1 May, as requested in resolution 2428. The Panel’s interim report, dated 26 November 2018, said that while it was too early to assess the full impact of the arms embargo, “a number of violations have been noted”. The report also referred to “alarming levels of sexual and gender-based violence, food insecurity and grave human rights abuses, including against children”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 22 March during its 40th session, the Human Rights Council adopted without a vote resolution 40/19 on the situation of human rights in South Sudan. Among other things, the resolution “condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan, including those involving the targeted killing of civilians and widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and gang rape, which continue to be used as a weapon of war, the recurring unlawful recruitment and use of children by armed groups, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, the arbitrary denial of humanitarian access and attacks on schools, places of worship, hospitals and United Nations and associated peacekeeping personnel by all parties”. The resolution extended the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for another year.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council is renewing the sanctions regime, including the arms embargo, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts. In doing so, the Council may also consider whether targeted sanctions should be imposed against additional individuals in line with the regime’s listing criteria, which include acts involving sexual violence. An option would be for such considerations to be informed by the briefing of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, to the Council on 18 December 2018, when she said that sexual violence “escalated dramatically in 2018” despite the signing of the R-ARCSS and 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.
Another key issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions imposed by resolution 2428. As noted in the Panel of Expert’s November 2018 interim report, “[i]ncreased regional security backing for the peace agreement led the Panel to identify a number of violations of the [arms] embargo” as well as “repeated violations of the travel ban by several designated individuals”. The report also noted the Panel “continued to seek the cooperation of regional States and commercial banks to monitor the implementation of the asset freeze.” The findings and recommendations of the Panel’s final report, not yet available at press time, are likely to inform the Council’s further consideration regarding implementation of the sanctions regime.
The imposition of an arms embargo on South Sudan in July 2018 was a major development. On several occasions in the four years prior to this, some Council members had called for an arms embargo, but until July 2018, such proposals had failed to garner sufficient support. (See our In Hindsight: South Sudan Arms Embargo, September 2018 Monthly Forecast.) As negotiations on resolutions 2418 and 2428 demonstrated, imposing the arms embargo on South Sudan was controversial, and both resolutions obtained the minimum number of votes required for adoption. One notable factor that made the adoption possible was the support of Côte d’Ivoire, which in doing so broke ranks with the two other African members of the Council at the time. Of the six members that abstained on resolutions 2418 and 2428 in 2018, three remain (China, Equatorial Guinea and Russia).
It is still unclear how the new composition of the Council may affect the upcoming adoption in May. However, references to the sanctions regime, and the arms embargo in particular, were contentious during negotiations on resolution 2459 renewing the UNMISS mandate in March. China, Russia and South Africa sought the removal of language contained in earlier drafts of the resolution noting the contribution to the peace process of the sanctions regime, including the arms embargo. The version adopted reflected a concession by only noting the measures adopted by the Security Council in resolution 2428, without referring to the arms embargo or the sanctions regime’s impact on the peace process. (See our What’s In Blue story of 14 March.)
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on South Sudan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 March 2019S/RES/2459||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNMISS for an additional year.|
|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.|
|31 May 2018S/RES/2418||This resolution renewed the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 July 2018.|
|28 February 2019S/2019/191||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 March 2019S/PV.8484||This was the meeting at which resolution 2459 was adopted, renewing the mandate of UNMISS for an additional year, with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining.|
|8 March 2019S/PV.8480||This was a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer on UNMISS.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|26 November 2018S/2018/1049||This was the interim report of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|