Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will be briefed on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, which members expect to receive by 8 September. Consultations will follow the briefing.
The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2022.
Key Recent Developments
On 9 July, South Sudan marked ten years of independence. There has been some progress in implementing the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), but overall implementation continues to be slow and selective. In early August, 504 members of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly and 84 members of the Council of States were sworn in. The legislature is expected to pass new laws and reforms to make further progress on the full implementation of the R-ARCSS, including the permanent constitution-making process and preparations for elections at the end of the transitional period. The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, identified several obstacles in its most recent quarterly report covering 1 April to 30 June. These include insufficient funds and resources; a lack of confidence between some parties to the R-ARCSS; the stalled implementation of the Transitional Security Arrangements, including the establishment of the Necessary Unified Forces; recurrence of community-based violence and insecurity in some parts of the country; capacity gaps in some institutions; the negative impact of the activities of holdout groups in some areas of the Equatorias; and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall peace process.
In early August, there were clashes in Upper Nile State between rival military factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), reportedly following declarations by intra-party rivals of First Vice President Riek Machar that they had deposed him as the head of the party and its military forces. On 9 August, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers adopted a communiqué on South Sudan, which among other things noted concern “that the unfolding political crisis and splintering of the SPLM/A-IO…bears significant immediate and long-term implications on the broader security and humanitarian situation as well as the ongoing peace process”. On 10 August, President Salva Kiir issued a statement expressing commitment to the implementation of the R-ARCSS and calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities within the SPLM/A-IO.
Localised ethnic and intercommunal violence continues. In August, there was an increase in intercommunal attacks in the Tambura region in Western Equatoria. On 23 August, UNMISS said that the situation in Tambura was tense because of the increased presence of armed young people and that the mission had reinforced its protection of internally displaced people and evacuated humanitarian workers in the area who had sought refuge at its temporary operating base there.
The human rights, humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormously detrimental effect on civilians. According to the acting Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Arafat Jamal, climate change is disrupting normal weather patterns and intensifying the impact of recent flooding, with some 90,000 people believed to have been affected by heavy rains that inundated homes and agricultural fields. In Jonglei, more than 70,000 people were affected by flooding, many of them for the second time since May.
Earlier this year, government officials said that elections, envisioned to take place in 2022, would be delayed until 2023. However, the parties to the R-ARCSS have yet to reach agreement on the duration of the current transitional period and the date for elections at its conclusion. On 15 July, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Council transmitting a needs assessment, including security, procedural and logistical requirements to create an enabling environment for elections in South Sudan, as requested in resolution 2567. According to the assessment, “electoral operations in South Sudan will be extremely complex and lengthy”. On the electoral timeline, the assessment recommends that, in the two years prior to the holding of elections, progress be made in three areas, namely agreement on the legal and security framework for elections, the composition and functioning of the National Election Commission and the allocation of resources. It notes that “ongoing cooperation to support the implementation of the peace agreement will assume even greater importance in the context of elections” and that UNMISS “is uniquely placed to play a coordinating role amongst regional and international partners and ensure an effective alignment of good offices and technical assistance”. It recommends that the UN provide electoral assistance to South Sudan in an integrated manner and in two phases, as outlined in the assessment.
Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 21 June by Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom for the first time since he took up the role in April. Haysom highlighted “the pervasive insecurity, in particular intercommunal violence” and noted that the mission “intends to enhance collaboration and promote greater coherence among international partners”, including IGAD and the AU. Rajab Mohandis, executive director and co-founder of the Organization for Responsive Governance, also briefed as a member of civil society. He emphasised that leadership “has been grossly lacking in South Sudan since the country became independent and, as it stands now, there is no clarity as to where the country is heading”. (See our What’s In Blue story of 18 June.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 26 July, UNMISS urged local and national authorities to end extrajudicial executions following the killing of at least 42 people accused of criminal activity who were not given access to a fair trial. Since March, UNMISS’ Human Rights Division has documented at least 14 incidents of extrajudicial killings in Warrap State, resulting in the execution of 29 males, including boys and elderly men. On 29 July, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan expressed grave concern at “the wave of extrajudicial executions being carried out by government forces across Warrap State”, which coincided with the appointment of a new governor in Warrap in March, the statement said.
During its upcoming 48th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on 23 September with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, which will provide an oral update. On 6 October, the HRC is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on technical assistance and capacity-building for 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.
A key issue about which Council members may seek further details going forward is in relation to the findings and recommendations made in the needs assessment on the holding of elections, including that an UNMISS-led integrated electoral assistance team be established immediately.
Another key issue Council members will want to follow closely is the humanitarian and food security situation. An option would be to continue to seek regular briefings from OCHA on the situation.
Council members welcome the recent but long-delayed swearing-in of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly and Council of States. However, many members remain concerned about the delays in implementing other key elements of the peace agreement, such as the transitional security arrangements, ongoing intercommunal violence, and the economic and humanitarian crises.
Several Council members referred to the issue of elections in their statements at the meeting on 21 June. The US noted “free and fair elections…that are both timely and peaceful” are essential. China said that “all parties in South Sudan should continue to advance the preparations for the general elections”. Norway emphasised the importance of support from IGAD and regional actors while France noted that UNMISS plays a key role, especially in the run-up to the elections. Estonia expressed concern over delays in the political situation, including the rescheduling of elections that should have taken place in 2022, and said activists and human rights defenders must be able to operate freely in South Sudan in light of the upcoming elections.
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|
|28 May 2021S/RES/2577||This resolution renewed the arms embargo until 31 May 2022.|
|12 March 2020S/RES/2514||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2021.|
|14 June 2021S/2021/566||This was the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report on South Sudan, covering political and security developments, the humanitarian and human rights situation and progress towards the implementation of the Mission’s mandate from 1 February to 31 May 2021.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|21 June 2021S/PV.8801||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Letter|
|15 July 2021S/2021/661||This was a letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the needs assessment to create an enabling environment for elections, requested in resolution 2567.|