Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is due to 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
On 22 February, the Transitional Government of National Unity was established in South Sudan, marking the start of a 36-month transitional period ahead of the holding of elections, in accordance with the terms of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed on 12 September 2018. Riek Machar was sworn in as First Vice President, followed by four other vice-presidents. At the ceremony on 22 February, President Salva Kiir remarked: “This action signifies the end to the war. Peace has come, and it has come to stay”. Machar pledged to work with Kiir during the upcoming 36-month transitional period to implement the R-ARCSS. “For the people of South Sudan, I want to assure you that we will work together to end your long suffering,” he said.
According to the terms of the R-ARCSS, 12 May 2019 was to mark 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 the transitional period. The deadline for the end of the pre-transitional period was extended for a second time until 22 February so that critical outstanding pre-transitional tasks specified under the R-ARCSS could be completed. These include the cantonment and training of a unified army and agreement on the number and boundaries of states. To date, many pre-transitional tasks remain outstanding, although on 15 February the parties were able to reach a compromise on reducing the number of states from 32 to 10.
Leading up to the 22 February deadline, several key actors expressed the need for progress in the peace process. At a press conference on 8 February, while attending the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General told the leaders of South Sudan: “You do not have the right to continue a confrontation when your people are suffering so much. It’s time for South Sudanese leaders to agree to cooperate”. On 9 February, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) adopted a communiqué that expressed appreciation for mediation efforts by regional special envoys from IGAD and South Africa in an attempt to resolve the number and boundaries of states and stated that further extension of the pre-transitional period “is neither desirable nor feasible at this stage of the peace process”. On 11 February, the members of the Troika on South Sudan (Norway, the UK and the US) issued a statement encouraging the parties to reach consensus on a way forward on the number of states. The AU Peace and Security Council undertook a field mission to South Sudan from 18 to 20 February, to evaluate implementation of the R-ARCSS. The delegation noted in a press release that the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity “is only the start of a long nation-building process, and…called on the parties to remain resolute, guided by the principles of compromise and restraint.”
The overall level of political violence remains lower than prior to the signing of the R-ARCSS, and the ceasefire continues to hold across most of the country. However, ethnic and intercommunal violence has continued, along with sporadic clashes between government and opposition forces in some parts of the country. The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians.
The mandate of UNMISS was last renewed on 15 March 2019 with the adoption of resolution 2459, which maintained the overall ceilings of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel. The four core elements of the mandate remained 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”. 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.
The Council was last briefed on South Sudan on 17 December 2019 by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS David Shearer and Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), then chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan conducted its eighth mission to the country from 3 to 9 February. In Juba and Bentiu, the commissioners met with internally displaced persons, community leaders, and civil society organisations, including women’s organisations. They also met with government officials, UN agencies, and UNMISS staff. “Since our visit to South Sudan last August, there has been a marked increase in incidents of armed and localized conflict, particularly in Yei and Maiwut,” said Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka at a press conference on 7 February. “Beyond armed conflict, the lack of progress on cantonment and deplorable conditions at cantonment sites, and forced recruitment including of children may all be directly tied to a lack of good faith shown by signatories to implement the [R-ARCSS],” she added. The commission also noted that the National Security Service was harassing, threatening, and intimidating activists and civil society representatives. The commission expressed its concern at the limited progress made on the establishment of the hybrid court; the commission for truth, reconciliation and healing; and the compensation and reparation authority, as required under the R-ARCSS. During its 43rd session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 9 March with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and consider its report (A/HRC/43/56).
Women, Peace and Security
At the 17 December 2019 Council briefing, Shearer reported that “while sexual violence remains a terrible problem, the 295 victims recorded in 2019 are substantially fewer than the almost 1,300 reported in 2018”. Ambassador Wronecka expressed her sadness over the fact that sexual violence “against women and girls, in particular” continues to be a marker of the civil war in South Sudan. She showed particular concern over a lack of accountability. In his 11 December report, the Secretary-General called sexual violence one of “the main threats to civilians” in South Sudan. He further stressed that conflict-related sexual violence continued to be used by the conflict parties. The South Sudan National Police Service is listed in the annex of the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence as one of the conflict parties “that are credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the Security Council agenda”. To address this, an action plan was launched on 19 November 2019 with the support of UNMISS, containing commitments to implement targeted actions for the next three years. With regard to the 35 percent quota for women in the formal implementation and monitoring mechanisms of the R-ARCSS, UNMISS continues to promote women’s participation in cooperation with women’s groups and organisations. The Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism and the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission are the only mechanisms that meet the quota. Women make up only 18 percent of members of national institutions.
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. Council members will also be informed by the findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report.
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;
- increasing the effectiveness of protection efforts beyond protection of civilians sites;
- further strengthening language for the mission to intensify its presence and active patrolling in areas at high risk of conflict;
- increasing mediation and community engagement to foster sustainable local and national reconciliation; and
- further strengthening the mission’s role in creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
While there have been recent positive developments in the peace process, the security situation remains fragile. In light of this, 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. While members agree on the importance of the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity on 22 February, many members share concerns over the need to fully implement the R-ARCSS as well as the need for durable peace. In this regard, it is likely that they will be in favour of language seeking to encourage UNMISS to continue to provide advice and technical support to the peace process.
Resolution 2459, extending the mandate of UNMISS last year, was adopted with 14 votes in favour. Russia abstained, in part because of its opposition to the resolution’s only noting the R-ARCSS rather than welcoming it. Ahead of the adoption, Russia, China and South Africa broke silence in relation to various issues. Language referring to the sanctions regime, and the arms embargo in particular, was contentious during negotiations. Russia and China also opposed aspects of the resolution dealing with sexual and gender-based violence and human rights issues. (See our What’s in Blue story of 14 March 2019.) It is possible that these areas may once again be contentious during the upcoming negotiations to renew the mission’s mandate.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy (Viet Nam) chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution|
|15 March 2019S/RES/2459||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNMISS for an additional year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|8 October 2019S/PRST/2019/11||This was a presidential statement focusing on the implementation of the R-ARCSS of 12 September 2018.|
|26 February 2020S/2020/145||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|17 December 2019S/PV.8689||This was a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|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.|