Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected 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 UNMISS report, released on 22 February.
Key Recent Developments
On 4 August 2022, 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 original transitional period agreed to in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February. Key aspects of the roadmap relate to the unification of forces and their redeployment, drafting of the permanent constitution, and the electoral process. In a 21 February press statement, the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) announced the commencement of the extended transition period ending 22 February 2025, with elections to be held in December 2024.
The most recent report (covering 1 October to 31 December 2022) of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, noted that the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal conflict taking place in Upper Nile and Jonglei states continues to deter humanitarian actors from providing life-saving assistance to thousands of people in need and has forced them to halt operations and relocate staff to safer locations. It added that the redeployment of the NUF (Necessary Unified Forces) and a campaign for civilian disarmament remain the key aspects to addressing intercommunal conflicts. According to the report, the passage of the Permanent Constitution Making Process Bill and reorganising the security sector are key outstanding tasks. The report added that the training of some NUF forces is behind schedule, while the deployment of others has been delayed, except for approximately 900 soldiers who were deployed to Anet in the northern part of Warrap state.
The first International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership–hosted by South Sudanese Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, whose portfolio includes gender and youth issues—was held from 13 to 15 February in Juba. The conference brought together 400 female leaders from 15 African nations, including current and former presidents. In a video statement to the conference, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed noted that “we need to build a movement for transformational leadership, and South Sudan is a good place to start”. Speaking at the beginning of the conference, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit said that South Sudan “cannot afford gender-based violence, as it hinders peace and development”. He expressed his government’s commitment to addressing the challenges faced by women and empowering them across the country.
Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country. According to the 17 February quarterly brief on violence affecting civilians (covering October to December 2022) by UNMISS’ Human Rights Division, there was a 42 percent increase in violent incidents registered by UNMISS as compared with the previous reporting period. It added that, during the reporting period, the number of civilians killed increased by 79 percent and incidents related to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) increased by 360 percent in comparison with the same reporting period in 2021.
On 2 February, deadly violence in the Kajo-Keji county of Central Equatoria state claimed at least 27 lives and left many others injured. In a 5 February press release, UNMISS expressed grave concern about the “resurgence of killings and violence stemming from long-standing tensions between cattle keepers and host communities in Central Equatoria State and in other parts of the country”. The press release noted that since the 2 February clashes, at least 2,000 people, mainly women and children, have become internally displaced, including 30 unaccompanied children.
The humanitarian situation remains dire. According to OCHA’s 25 November 2022 South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview, 9.4 million people—almost 76 percent of South Sudan’s population—will require humanitarian assistance in 2023, compared with 8.9 million in 2022. 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 lean season this year, and 1.4 million children will be malnourished. According to OCHA, three aid workers have lost their lives while on duty since the beginning of 2023.
Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 13 December 2022 by Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom, who discussed the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan dated 7 December 2022. Haysom expressed concern that the delays in the implementation of the R-ARCSS have a domino effect on subsequent key benchmarks, saying that the two-year extension “should not be regarded as a holiday break”. He expressed support for an approach to the elections focused on fulfilling legal requirements, preparing the environment for the elections and providing material assistance for their conduct. He added that it was critical that the Council and the international community convey a unified message on the significance of implementing the provisions concerning elections. He also expressed concern about the clashes among armed militias, which are causing displacement in northern Jonglei and Upper Nile, intercommunal violence in northern Warrap, and ongoing cattle-raiding and migration-related conflicts in the Equatorias
Human Rights-Related Developments
Members of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, led by its chairperson, Yasmin Sooka, concluded their five-day visit to the country on 18 February. During the visit, commission members met with survivors of human rights violations, government officials, members of civil society, jurists, UN agencies, and UNMISS officials with the goal of discussing the human rights situation in South Sudan. In a 17 February press conference at UNMISS headquarters in Juba, Commissioner Barney Afako expressed regret that the suffering across the country remained immense and called upon the political leaders to reorient their priorities to protect the human rights of South Sudanese. Commissioner Andrew Clapham indicated that the commission will be identifying some individuals who bear responsibility for certain events in their next report for the UN. The commission is expected to brief the Human Rights Council at its 52nd session in early March.
Peacebuilding Commission-Related Developments
On 26 October 2022, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) convened its first meeting on South Sudan. The meeting’s focus was on generating and providing support to South Sudan—in particular, efforts to improve accountable governance, public finance management, and the delivery of social services at the local level—in support of the implementation of the R-ARCSS. The session included briefings by South Sudan’s peacebuilding minister, defence minister, and health minister, as well as senior officials from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the World Bank, and the UN.
From 6 to 9 December 2022, the Chair of the PBC, Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith (Bangladesh), led a PBC mission to South Sudan. According to the mission report, the PBC delegation sought to explore ways for the commission to enhance its engagement with South Sudan in addressing the root causes of conflict and overcoming the country’s political, humanitarian and development challenges. The PBC convened a meeting on its mission on 31 January. In a press statement released on 31 January, the commission “noted the urgency of staying the course” on the implementation of the outstanding provisions of the peace agreement in line with the timeline set out in the Agreement on the Roadmap to Peaceful and Democratic End of the Transitional Period of the R-ARCSS, adopted in August 2022. It further encouraged South Sudan’s government to promote the participation of all stakeholders in the peace process.
On 17 February, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee held an open briefing to allow member states, particularly regional states, to provide their views on the interim report of the South Sudan Panel of Experts, which was released on 1 December 2022.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council is to consider what changes are necessary in 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 Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report. The four pillars of the UNMISS mandate include: protection of civilians; creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; supporting the implementation of the revitalised agreement and the peace process; and monitoring, investigating and reporting on violations of humanitarian and human rights law.
An ongoing concern for the Council is the significant political challenge 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 last year’s 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.
Members are supportive of the UNMISS mandate and its four pillars. Last year, language was added and amended in relation to the mission’s mandate, including with reference to elections and the constitution-making process. Substantial amendments and additions were made to the section addressing the South Sudan peace process. These additions included: an expression of deep concern about delays in implementing the R-ARCSS; the need to establish free and open civic space; the importance of an inclusive constitution-drafting process, economic transparency and public financial management reform; and a recognition of the detrimental effect of corruption and misuse of public funds.
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. 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: proposed language calling on UNMISS to assist in developing mitigation measures against increasingly frequent and extreme weather, which may exacerbate communal violence, was removed at the request of Brazil, China, and Russia.
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 in the country.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 March 2022S/RES/2625||This renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2023.|
|22 February 2023S/2023/135||This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 December 2022S/PV.9219||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|