Expected Council Action
In December, the Security Council will be briefed on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, which members expect to receive by 8 December. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to brief on the work of the Committee. Consultations will follow the briefing.
The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2023.
Key Recent Developments
On 4 August, all signatories to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) agreed to a roadmap extending the transitional period by 24 months to enable the implementation of its key outstanding tasks. (The transitional period agreed to in the R-ARCSS was set to end in February 2023.) Key aspects of the roadmap relate to the unification of forces and their redeployment, drafting the permanent constitution, and the electoral process. While there has been some recent progress in the South Sudanese peace process, much remains to be done to fully implement the R-ARCSS and to ensure that free, fair and credible elections can be held at the end of the transitional period.
Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country, including fighting in recent months in Upper Nile state between rival armed factions resulting in the loss of life, the abduction of women and the displacement of thousands of people. According to a report released on 16 November by UNMISS’ Human Rights Division, between July and September, there was a 60 percent decrease in overall violent incidents against civilians (from 351 to 142) and a 23 percent decrease in civilian victims (from 969 to 745) in comparison to the same reporting period in 2021. The report attributes this largely to the decline in civilian casualties in the Greater Equatoria Region.
The humanitarian situation remains dire. On 3 November, the World Food Programme warned that hunger and malnutrition are on the rise in South Sudan, with some communities likely to face starvation if humanitarian assistance is not sustained and climate adaptation measures are not scaled up. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), released on 3 November, indicated that about two-thirds of the country’s population— 7.76 million people—are likely to face acute food insecurity during the April-July 2023 lean season, and 1.4 million children will be malnourished. According to OCHA’s September Humanitarian Access Snapshot, released on 11 October, three aid workers were killed while on duty in September.
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General Courtney Rattray visited South Sudan from 6 to 9 November. They met with several actors, including government officials, members of civil society, humanitarian and development donors, women’s groups, and internally displaced persons. They also travelled to Bor, Jonglei state, where in a 7 November statement Lacroix highlighted that flooding caused by climate change had affected people in the area and made access for peacekeepers and humanitarian actors difficult. In a 9 November statement, Lacroix emphasised that a political solution was necessary to address the challenges facing the country. He also noted the importance of keeping South Sudan “high on the international agenda” in light of the growing humanitarian crisis amid reduced donor funding.
The most recent report (covering 1 July to 30 September) of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, noted that the extension of the transitional period agreed to in the roadmap “is indicative of the slow progress in the implementation of the R-ARCSS that has plagued the Agreement since its signing in September 2018”. It said that the unification of forces remains “the most critical activity” and called for the immediate graduation and deployment of all the forces. The report added that the government “should avoid falling behind in the implementation of the tasks specifically outlined within the roadmap” and called for the passage of relevant bills, particularly the Permanent Constitution-Making Process Bill.
Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 16 September by Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom, who discussed the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on South Sudan. Haysom told the Council that “the next few months will be a litmus test for the parties in demonstrating their commitment to the implementation of the road map”. He noted that he had “encouraged the parties to display tangible results by keeping to the strict deadlines of the road map’s calendar” and added that it was “critical that the international community and the Council remain closely seized of the process”. He emphasised the importance of the pending constitution-making process as well as elections preparations. Regarding the mission, he said it had largely accomplished a “double pivot”, in order to focus its efforts towards “greater facilitation of the political process” along with “proactive deployment to violent hotspots”. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 14 September.)
Women, Peace and Security
From 17 to 21 October, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten visited South Sudan, where she held meetings with key government stakeholders as well as civil society groups and survivors of sexual violence. In a 21 October radio interview, Patten noted that women in South Sudan have yet to benefit from the dividends of peace and that, in fact, sexual violence has “increased exponentially”, with UNMISS verifying 96 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated against 225 persons in 2022. Among the issues raised with government officials, Patten said that she emphasised to the Minister of Defence the need to strengthen witness and victim protection measures following cases of reprisals connected to military court trials. She called for an implementation plan for the 2014 Joint Communiqué of the Republic of South Sudan and the UN on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. (This was Patten’s second visit to South Sudan; the first was in 2018.)
Human Rights-Related Developments
In October, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan travelled to Addis Ababa “to urge African countries and other stakeholders to renew their support for implementation of the peace agreement”, according to a 19 October press release. It also notes that under the R-ARCSS, a Hybrid Court for South Sudan, a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) and a reparations process should have been established more than two years ago. The Commission is expected to brief the Human Rights Council at its 52nd session in early 2023.
On 18 November, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to receive a briefing from its Panel of Experts on its interim report. (The report, due by 1 December in accordance with resolution 2633, was not yet publicly available at the time of writing.)
Key Issues and Options
An ongoing concern for the Council is the significant political challenges in South Sudan related to the delays in implementing the R-ARCSS. A key issue in this regard is what the Council can do to encourage the parties to demonstrate progress towards implementing the outstanding elements of the R-ARCSS in accordance with the deadlines set out in the roadmap. Another issue for several Council members is the need for the government to engage with civil society and other interested parties in relation to the roadmap and its implementation. The Council could consider adopting a presidential statement urging the parties to implement the roadmap in an inclusive and timely manner. Another option is to consider a Council visiting mission to South Sudan to assess the situation and engage further with the various parties. (The last Council visiting mission to South Sudan was in 2019.)
Another key issue Council members will want to follow closely is the humanitarian and food security situation. An option would be to seek regular briefings from OCHA on the situation.
Most Council members share similar concerns about the delays in implementing the R-ARCSS, the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence, the high levels of sexual violence, and the economic and humanitarian crises. Members such as Norway, the UK and the US, along with EU members, expressed reservations about extending the transitional period in August and called on the government to demonstrate its commitment to implementing the R-ARCSS in line with the deadlines set out in the roadmap.
At the 16 September briefing, the US said it was “highly disappointed that South Sudan’s leaders extended the transitional period, thereby once again extending their own time and power, despite failing over the past four years to deliver fully on the commitments they made in the [R-ARCSS]”. Conversely, in a joint statement, the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) welcomed “the gradual implementation of the [R-ARCSS] that has been witnessed over the past four years, despite the challenges” and commended the signing of the roadmap.
Differences of view on issues such as how to depict the situation on the ground in South Sudan, the extent to which the Council can and should apply pressure on the parties to fully implement the R-ARCSS, the utility of sanctions, and the effects of climate change on the situation in South Sudan continue to colour Council dynamics.
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|
|15 March 2022S/RES/2625||This renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2023.|
|13 September 2022S/2022/689||This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|16 September 2022S/PV.9134||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|