Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will be briefed on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, which members expect to receive by 11 June.
The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2022.
Key Recent Developments
Slow and selective implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) continues to contribute to uncertainty around the peace process. After numerous postponements, President Salva Kiir issued a decree on 9 May, reconstituting the country’s Transitional National Legislative Assembly, as required under the R-ARCSS. The training and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces remains a key outstanding task, and the government has neither signed the memorandum of understanding with the AU to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan nor set up the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, said in its most recent quarterly report covering 1 January to 31 March that “the pace of implementation of the R-ARCSS slowed markedly”, particularly in relation to security arrangements. It called on the government to accelerate implementation, given that less than two years remain until the end of the 36-month transitional period. On 25 May, RJMEC convened a three-day workshop in Juba with signatories of the R-ARCSS on the Permanent Constitution-making process.
The human rights, humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormously detrimental effect on civilians. According to OCHA, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan deteriorated further in early 2021 because of compounding shocks, including flooding, ongoing violence and displacement. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projected that an estimated 7.2 million people representing 60 percent of the population will face crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) or worse from April to July. Attacks continue against humanitarian workers. On 12 May, a humanitarian worker was killed in Budi in Eastern Equatoria when gunmen ambushed a humanitarian vehicle. On 21 May, an aid worker was killed in Panyijiar County, Unity State, and a humanitarian convoy, including an ambulance, was attacked in a separate incident nearby on the same day.
Localised ethnic and intercommunal violence also continues unabated. In May, renewed conflict between community-based militias in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area led to thousands being displaced and an increased need for humanitarian assistance. In a statement on 17 May, Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom said that “the rising violence in Greater Pibor and likelihood of revenge attacks is alarming”. He expressed deep concern “about the impact of this conflict which is creating further displacement and threatening the distribution of food aid”.
On 28 May, the Council adopted resolution 2577 which renewed the South Sudan sanctions regime for one year—including targeted sanctions and the arms embargo—and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts. The resolution contained five benchmarks for the review of the arms embargo, namely completion of the Strategic Defense and Security Review process contained in the R-ARCSS; formation of the Necessary Unified Forces; progress on the establishment and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process; progress on properly managing existing arms and ammunition stockpiles and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 3 March by David Shearer, then-Special Representative and head of UNMISS, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report dated 23 February. Shearer raised concerns about a power vacuum at the local level, which has presented opportunities for spoilers and national actors to exploit local tensions and fuel violence. Jackline Nasiwa, founder and national director of the Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, briefed as a member of civil society based in South Sudan.
Key Issues and Options
Several significant political and security challenges persist in South Sudan related to the delays in implementing the R-ARCSS. Given this situation, the Council could consider holding an informal interactive dialogue (IID) with key RJMEC officials to exchange ideas about how to support the parties in meeting their obligations under the agreement. The IID is a closed format that, unlike consultations, allows for the participation of non-UN officials and briefers.
Another key issue Council members will want to follow closely is the humanitarian and food security situation. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock last briefed the Council on these issues at the 17 December 2020 meeting on South Sudan. An option would be to continue to seek regular briefings from OCHA on the situation.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members welcome the recent but long-delayed reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. However, many members remain concerned about the delays in implementing other key elements of the peace agreement, such as the transitional security arrangements, and about ongoing intercommunal violence and the economic and humanitarian crises.
There remain stark divisions on the Council regarding the utility of UN sanctions on South Sudan. At the time of writing, it appeared that several abstentions were possible on the adoption of resolution 2577 renewing the sanctions regime for one year. (For more details, see our What’s in Blue story of 28 May.)
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|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2567||This renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for one year.|
|23 February 2021S/2021/172||This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|5 March 2021S/2021/219||This was a compilation of the briefings and statements from Council members’ 3 March 2021 videoconference on South Sudan.|