March 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2022
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AFRICA

South Sudan

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 is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.

Key Recent Developments

February marked the two-year anniversary of the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity and the start of a 36-month transitional period ahead of elections, in accordance with the terms of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed on 12 September 2018. While some progress has been made, including the formation of national and state executive and legislative bodies, overall implementation of the R-ARCSS remains slow, particularly in relation to transitional security arrangements, the enactment of key legislation by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, and the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms.

While screening of the Necessary Unified Forces began in December 2021, timelines for their graduation and deployment and agreement on command structures remain outstanding. Another security challenge relates to internal disputes within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) between rival military factions. One encouraging sign is that the transitional government signed an agreement with the SPLM/A-IO Kit-Gwang faction in Khartoum on 16 January to end the conflict in Upper Nile State. On 18 February, media reports said major clashes had taken place despite the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Both sides reportedly accused each other of starting the violence in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State.

The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, listed several recommendations in its most recent quarterly report (1 October to 31 December 2021). These include that the government implement the agreed upon constitution-making roadmap and make financial resources available for the completion of transitional security arrangements. Among other things, the report also recommended that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convene a “high level leadership retreat with a view to increasing the pace of implementation”.

In February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni invited South Sudan President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar for talks in Kampala, including on the issue of security arrangements. At the time of writing, the meeting was expected to take place on 3-4 March.

The permanent ceasefire agreed to in June 2018 is holding, but intercommunal conflict continues in several parts of the country, including a recent escalation of conflict in greater Jonglei. In a statement on 10 February at an RJMEC meeting, Deputy Special Representative and deputy head of UNMISS Guang Cong said the mission is adapting its strategy “to prevent and respond to hotspots in an integrated manner, including through the flexible deployment of Temporary Operating Bases”. He added that compared to 2020, 2021 had seen “a marked decrease of about 42 percent in the number of recorded civilian victims of violence”. The mission also continues to support strengthening the administration of justice, including through the deployment of mobile courts, he said.

The human rights, humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormously detrimental effect on civilians. According to OCHA’s January Humanitarian Snapshot, an estimated 835,000 people have been affected by unprecedented levels of flooding since May 2021. There are 8.3 million people in need of assistance, 4.3 million people are displaced (two million internally displaced and 2.3 million refugees), and 34,000 internally displaced people live in the protection of civilians sites, according to OCHA. Humanitarian needs are projected to continue to grow in 2022. In his 10 February statement, Cong noted that the effects of flooding “demonstrates South Sudan’s increasing vulnerability to climate change”, adding that “with the rainy season soon approaching, additional flooding would be catastrophic”.

The government has said elections will take place in 2023, but agreement has not been reached on an electoral timetable. On 27 October 2021, the Council adopted a presidential statement requesting the Secretary-General to establish an integrated electoral assistance team led by UNMISS. In his Council briefing on 15 December 2021, Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom said that 2022 “presents a dramatic challenge…[that] will require both technical and political preparations, including an agreement on the constitution, as well as on the rules governing the election”. He added that “we expect the domestic political temperature to rise as elections draw closer” and expressed concern over restrictions on civic space. Haysom also highlighted “South Sudan’s high vulnerability to climate change” and said that an UNMISS-UN country team working group on climate change and security had been established.

On 25 January, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué requesting the AU Commission to liaise with the UN and IGAD “to coordinate a trilateral evaluation of the electoral and constitution-making needs of South Sudan” and to submit a report within two months. On the second anniversary of the formation of the transitional government, the PSC also undertook a three-day visit to South Sudan from 22 to 25 February.

The Council last renewed the mandate of UNMISS for one year on 12 March 2021 with the unanimous adoption of resolution 2567. The resolution maintained the overall ceilings of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel. It retained the four core elements of the mandate: (i) protection of civilians; (ii) creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; (iii) supporting the implementation of the R-ARCSS and the peace process; and (iv) monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights. The resolution contained a new paragraph deciding that UNMISS will advance a three-year strategic vision to prevent a return to civil war, build durable peace, and support elections. It also called on the government of South Sudan and all relevant actors to fulfil a series of priority measures before the end of UNMISS’s mandate in March. These included providing security to re-designated protection of civilian sites, the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces, and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the AU to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, as agreed under Chapter 5 of the R-ARCSS. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 11 March 2021.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 49th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) is expected to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on 18 March and consider its report (A/HRC/49/78). On 29 March, the HRC will hold an interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan (A/HRC/49/91).

The commission undertook its ninth visit to South Sudan from 7 to 12 February. Members of the commission met with representatives of the government, civil society, religious leaders, entities monitoring the R-ARCSS, UN agencies, and UNMISS. They discussed necessary steps and support to implementing transitional justice mechanisms.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 20 January, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Council on the appointment of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee in accordance with resolution 2577, which was adopted on 28 May 2021 and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 1 July. The appointment of the panel was delayed by several months, apparently because of holds placed by Russia. As a result, the panel was not able to submit an interim report by 1 December 2021, as requested in resolution 2577. A final report is due by 1 May. At the briefing on 15 December 2021, Mexico, the US and the UK expressed regret that candidates for the panel had been placed on hold.

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 the four pillars of the mission’s mandate while making some adjustments. In doing so, Council members will be informed by the findings and recommendations of the upcoming 90-day Secretary-General’s report and might consider some of the following:

  • increasing the mission’s provision of technical and logistical support to advance the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces;
  • increasing the mission’s support for legislative and constitution-making processes, including capacity-building support for the National Constitutional Amendment Committee;
  • providing a clear mandate for the mission to support preparations for free and fair elections, at the request of the government;
  • emphasising the implementation of a mission-wide early-warning and response strategy;
  • emphasising the need to maintain an agile and flexible posture to respond to a wide range of security scenarios;
  • increasing the promotion of accountability for sexual and gender-based violence and human rights violations and abuses;
  • increasing protection of human rights defenders and civil society leaders;
  • emphasising the need for continued and enhanced engagement by the mission with the AU Commission and the AU High Level Committee on South Sudan, also known as the C5, as well as IGAD; and
  • including stronger language about addressing the effects of climate change and mandating the mission to undertake risk assessments and risk management strategies on the implications of climate change.
Council Dynamics

Members are supportive of the UNMISS mandate and its four pillars. Last year, the penholder included a new paragraph specifying that the UNMISS mandate is designed to advance a three-year strategic vision focused on preventing a return to civil war in South Sudan; building a durable peace, both locally and nationally; and supporting inclusive, accountable governance and free, fair, and peaceful elections in keeping with the R-ARCSS.

Differences of view on issues such as how to depict the situation on the ground in South Sudan, the utility of sanctions, and the effects of climate change continue to colour Council dynamics, as they have in previous years. In this regard, during last year’s negotiations, an area of disagreement among Council members was the extent to which positive language on the situation should be included. In addition, references to the South Sudan sanctions regime, and the arms embargo in particular, were contentious, with opposition from members such as China and Russia. One of the most difficult issues during negotiations last year was language on climate change, despite the support of most Council members, including the penholder. Silence was broken by Russia on the inclusion of language relating to climate change.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) 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.
Security Council Presidential Statement
27 October 2021S/PRST/2021/20 This statement requested the Secretary-General to establish an integrated electoral assistance team led by UNMISS.
Secretary-General’s Report
7 December 2021S/2021/1015 This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.
Security Council Letter
20 January 2022S/2022/42 This was on the appointment of the Panel of Experts.
Security Council Meeting Record
15 December 2021S/PV.8931 This was a briefing on South Sudan.

 

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