May 2022 Monthly Forecast


South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In May, the Council expects to vote on a draft resolution to renew the South Sudan sanctions regime—including targeted sanctions and the arms embargo—which expires on 31 May and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts, which expires on 1 July, as set out in resolution 2577.

The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2023.

Key Recent Developments

Political and security tensions escalated in March, following clashes between the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) in Upper Nile and Unity states, with both sides accusing each other of starting the attacks. On 22 March, First Vice President Riek Machar, head of the SPLM/A-IO, announced his party’s withdrawal from monitoring and verification mechanisms under the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), including the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Verification Mechanism, National Transitional Committee, and Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission. Following talks between the parties and Sudan’s mediation, the SPLM/A-IO said on 3 April it would again participate in the bodies from which they withdrew in March. The parties also signed an agreement on security arrangements in relation to a unified command-and-control structure that will oversee the 83,000 unified forces once they graduate.

While overall implementation of the R-ARCSS remains significantly behind schedule, there has recently been some further progress, in addition to the 3 April agreement mentioned above, including the launch of a nationwide consultative process on 5 April for the establishment of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, as agreed to in the R-ARCSS, and a 12 April Presidential Decree integrating the SPLM/A-IO and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) into a unified army.

Sub-national and intercommunal conflict continues across the country. In April, UNMISS increased patrols in Leer, Unity State, in response to a surge in intercommunal violence, including reports of sexual violence, looting and destruction of property, that resulted in the displacement of thousands of people. The human rights, humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormously detrimental effect on civilians. An estimated 7.7 million people—approximately 63 percent of the population—are likely to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity through July.

The government has said elections will take place next year, but it has not yet set an electoral timetable. In a press conference on 14 April, Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom noted that there are ten months left in the 36-month transitional period and that “upon the invitation from the government, the mission stands ready to support the South Sudanese in holding elections and in building their political institutions required to manage those elections”.

On 28 May 2021, 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 in establishing and implementing the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration process; progress in properly managing existing arms and ammunition stockpiles; and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to conduct an assessment of progress achieved on the benchmarks by 15 April, and the South Sudan authorities to report to the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee on the progress achieved on the benchmarks, also by 15 April. At the time of writing, the report had not yet been published.

Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 7 March. Haysom briefed the Council on the 90-day report of the Secretary-General. Major General (Retired) Charles Tai Gituai, Interim Chairperson of the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and Riya Williams Yuyada, a civil society representative, also briefed. On 15 March, the Council adopted resolution 2625, extending the mandate of UNMISS for one year, with 13 votes in favour. China and Russia abstained. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 14 March.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 March, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan published a conference room paper on conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan. It concluded that “widespread and pervasive conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan takes place in the context of persistent conflict and insecurity, drastic gender inequity, and prevailing impunity, which exacerbate its prevalence and contribute to its normalization” (A/HRC/49/CRP.4). The paper contains a series of recommendations addressed to the government, AU, IGAD and UNMISS.

On 31 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 49/2 on advancing human rights in South Sudan by a vote of 19 in favour, 11 against (including China and Russia) and 17 abstentions (including Brazil, Gabon, India, and the United Arab Emirates). On 1 April, the HRC adopted without a vote resolution 49/35 on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 22 April, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to receive a briefing from the Panel of Experts on its final report and to discuss its recommendations. The final report, due by 1 May, was not yet publicly available at the time of writing. (The panel was only appointed on 20 January following several months of delays apparently because of holds placed by Russia. As a result, it was not able to submit an interim report by 1 December 2021, as requested in resolution 2577.)

Key Issues and Options

An immediate key issue for the Council is the renewal of the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts. Another key issue is assessing progress achieved on the five benchmarks contained in resolution 2577. Council members are likely to be guided by the findings in the Secretary-General’s assessment report, requested in resolution 2577. An option is to renew the sanctions regime, retaining the benchmarks contained in resolution 2577 and calling for further progress in their implementation.

Another key issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions. The findings and recommendations of the panel’s final report are likely to inform the Council’s further consideration regarding implementation of the sanctions regime.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Sanctions on South Sudan remain a divisive issue in the Council. When the Council last renewed the sanctions regime in May 2021 through resolution 2577, Kenya and India abstained. During negotiations, members supported the inclusion of benchmarks in principle; the initial draft circulated by the US (the penholder) set out ten benchmarks. The scope and specificity of the benchmarks, however, proved to be the most difficult aspect of the negotiations. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 28 May 2021.)

In its explanation of vote, China noted that it did not support the arms embargo on South Sudan. India expressed the view that resolution 2577 does not take into consideration “positive developments in South Sudan” and that “some of these benchmarks are administrative in nature”. Kenya said it “strongly believes that more flexibility could have been extended to make the eventual lifting of the sanctions realistic and certain”.

Several members of the Council (France, the US, the UK, and others) believe that sanctions are a useful tool to foster stability in South Sudan and to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the R-ARCSS. They generally hold the view that the arms embargo has reduced the flow of weapons to South Sudan, contributing to the reduction of violence, and have expressed concern that the absence of an arms embargo would negatively affect the security situation.

Other Council members have a less favourable view of the sanctions regime. These members tend to underscore the need for the Council to encourage progress in the political and security spheres and believe that current measures could be counterproductive in this regard. China and Russia have had long-standing concerns about the South Sudan sanctions regime. They both abstained in July 2018 on resolution 2428, which initially imposed the arms embargo on South Sudan, in May 2019 on resolution 2471, and in May 2020 on resolution 2521, which extended the sanctions regime for one year.

The AU Peace and Security Council and IGAD have repeatedly called for lifting all punitive measures on South Sudan, and several regional states have expressed opposition to the arms embargo.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
15 March 2022S/RES/2625 This renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2023.
28 May 2021S/RES/2577 This resolution renewed the arms embargo until 31 May 2022.
Secretary-General’s Report
25 February 2022S/2022/156 This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.
Security Council Letters
20 January 2022S/2022/42 This was on the appointment of the Panel of Experts.
28 May 2021S/2021/518 This was the voting results for resolution 2577, including explanations of vote.
Security Council Meeting Record
7 March 2022S/PV.8987 This was a briefing on South Sudan.

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