Expected Council Action
In May, the Council expects to vote on a resolution to renew the South Sudan sanctions regime—including targeted sanctions and the arms embargo—which expires on 31 May. The mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts expires on 30 June, and the Council is also expected “to take appropriate action regarding [its] future extension” by 31 May, as stipulated in resolution 2471.
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. Machar has pledged to work with President Salva Kiir during the transitional period to implement the R-ARCSS. At the time of writing, the parties continued to disagree on their allocation of the ten state governorships, with the government maintaining that its supporters should have six of these posts.
On 12 March, the Council adopted resolution 2514, extending the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 15 March 2021. The resolution maintained the overall force levels with 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, supporting the peace process, and monitoring and investigating human rights violations and abuses—with broad agreement from Council members on each of these components. One departure from previous years is that support for the peace process now precedes monitoring and investigating human rights in the order of mandated responsibilities. (See our What’s In Blue story from 11 March.)
The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué on 9 April in which it congratulated the government and people of South Sudan on the establishment of the transitional government and welcomed the “significant improvement in the general security and humanitarian situation” in the country. The communiqué called on South Sudanese stakeholders to work together against COVID-19. It also urged member states that had imposed sanctions on South Sudan to remove them “in order to facilitate the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement and create conducive conditions for socio-economic recovery and development in the country”.
The government of South Sudan has taken a number of measures to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19, including forming a high-level task force to address the epidemic, instituting a national curfew, and suspending air travel between states within the country, among other measures. As of 20 April, there have been four reported cases in South Sudan. If not contained, there is the potential for the virus to have a devastating impact on the country, given the tens of thousands of people living in overcrowded camps for internally displaced persons and South Sudan’s fragile and under-resourced health care system.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 20 March statement, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed “serious concerns about the escalation in intercommunal violence in central and eastern South Sudan in the past month”, urging State authorities “to curb the bloodshed and bring those responsible to justice”. Hundreds have been killed, women and children have been subjected to sexual violence, and many homes have been set afire, forcing thousands to take refuge in makeshift camps since the rise in attacks began in mid-February, the statement said. In an 8 April statement, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan urged the recently formed Transitional Government of National Unity to increase efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, including halting all armed hostilities. The nearly 1.5 million internally displaced persons in the country “are at a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their limited access to basic services such as healthcare, water, hygiene and sanitation, food, and adequate housing. Many have often had to travel for hours or days to reach healthcare facilities, leading to high levels of preventable deaths among displaced populations,” the statement said.
At the time of writing, the members of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee were considering the final report of the Panel of Experts. The panel’s interim report, dated 22 November 2019, said, “The region has not consistently enforced the arms embargo or the asset freeze and travel ban on sanctioned individuals.” The report also noted challenges related to transparency and oversight in the country’s management of its natural resources.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate key issue for the Council is to make a decision on renewing the sanctions regime and the Panel of Experts. In doing so, the Council could signal its concerns about misuse of public resources by government officials in ways that undermine stability in the country. It might also encourage South Sudan’s cooperation and dialogue with the Panel of Experts. Another option is to consider incorporating benchmarks into a resolution outlining conditions that would need to be met for targeted sanctions and the arms embargo to be lifted.
Another key issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions imposed by resolution 2471. The findings and recommendations of the panel’s final report, not yet available at this writing, are likely to inform the Council’s further consideration regarding implementation of the sanctions regime.
Sanctions on South Sudan remain a divisive issue in the Council. When the Council last renewed the sanctions regime in May 2019 through resolution 2471, there were only ten affirmative votes, along with five abstentions. While most members of the Council believe that sanctions are a useful tool to foster stability in the country, other members (for example, China, Russia and South Africa) are concerned that they could undermine the political progress that has been made. (For background see our In Hindsight from September 2018.)
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 Resolutions|
|12 March 2020S/RES/2514||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2021.|
|30 May 2019S/RES/2471||This was a resolution extending the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts until 31 May 2020.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|20 November 2019S/2019/897||This was the interim report of the Panel of Experts.|