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 an arms embargo), which expires on 31 May, and extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, which expires on 1 July.
The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2024.
Background and 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 in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February. Key aspects of the roadmap relate to the unification of forces and their redeployment, the 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 beginning of the extended transition period, which is to end on 22 February 2025, with elections to be held in December 2024. In addition, the government also declared that there would be no more extensions of the timelines.
The most recent quarterly report (covering the period from 1 January to 31 March) of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, noted that it continued to face multifaceted challenges, including lack of dedicated financial resources and an insufficient level of trust and confidence among the signatory parties to the R-ARCSS. It added that attacks on humanitarian workers and looting of their supplies have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in the country. According to the report, the drafting of the permanent constitution and all elections-related tasks, including the establishment and functioning of institutions that drive the elections process, are behind schedule. It further noted that, in March, the signatory parties reached an agreement on the unification of the middle and lower-level military command structures, based on a 60 percent ratio for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), 30 percent for the SPLM-in Opposition (SLPM-IO), and 10 percent for the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).
The Sant’Egidio Community-mediated peace talks between R-TGoNU and the non-signatories to the R-ARCSS were held in Rome from 21 to 24 March. Minister for Presidential Affairs Barnaba Marial Benjamin led the South Sudanese government delegation, while the Non-Signatory South Sudanese Opposition Group (NSSSOG) was represented by Thomas Cirillo, chairperson of the National Salvation Front; Paul Malong, former Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA); and Pagan Amum, spokesperson of NSSSOG.
Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country. According to the 18 March annual brief on violence affecting civilians (covering the period from January to December 2022) by UNMISS’ Human Rights Division, 3,469 cases were documented relating to civilians affected mostly by killing, injury, abduction, or subjected to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), amounting to a two percent increase over 2021. It added that, during the reporting period, the number of recorded cases of injuries, abductions and CRSV increased by 17, six and 96 percent, respectively.
On 13 March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Riek Machar in Juba to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues, and the progress in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. On the same day, a high-level Sudanese delegation, which included the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, visited Juba to engage with the South Sudanese leaders to reduce current intra-South Sudan political tensions and discuss bilateral relations. (Sudan is the current chair of IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development).
Council members were last briefed on South Sudan on 6 March by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom and OCHA Acting Director of Operations and Advocacy Tareq Talahma. In his remarks, Haysom noted that this is a “make-or-break year” for South Sudan and a test for all parties to the R-ARCSS, highlighting several key challenges that parties should address, including drafting a new constitution, preparing for inclusive and credible elections, deploying the necessary unified forces (NUF), and tackling subnational violence. He also mentioned his request to UN headquarters to carry out a study to assess UNMISS’ capacity to adequately protect civilians and support the implementation of the R-ARCSS.
On 3 March, President Kiir dismissed Defence Minister Angelina Teny and Interior Minister Mahmoud Solomon. According to the R-ARCSS, the party of First Vice President Machar, the SPLM-IO, is responsible for the appointment of the defence minister. In a 29 March decree, Kiir named a member of his own party (SPLM), Chol Thon Balok, as the new defence minister. According to a 30 March Al Jazeera article, Machar’s spokesperson said that “the appointment of Chol Thon as a minister of defence is unilateral and a new blatant violation of the peace agreement”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 3 April, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan issued a report, providing findings of the investigations it had conducted in six states of South Sudan as well as the neighbouring region over the last year. Among other things, the report concluded that armed violence continues to damage communities and people have been subjected to gross human rights violations and abuses, including killings, torture, conflict-related sexual violence and the looting and destruction of homes and livelihoods; effective prosecutions remain woefully insufficient; impunity has been driving conflict and human rights violations throughout the country; and victims, including survivors of sexual violence, are unable to access medical care. Commissioner Andrew Clapham noted that “the State continues to fail in its duty to protect civilians, and to ensure accountability for violations”. He called on the authorities to investigate alleged perpetrators, irrespective of their rank or office, and strengthen justice mechanisms.
During its 52nd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution on advancing human rights in South Sudan. It extended the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for one year and requested the Commission to present a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan to the HRC at its 55th session, followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue with the participation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resolution also called on the government of South Sudan to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses and to hold the perpetrators accountable. Council members France, the UK, and the US voted in favour, whereas Gabon abstained, and China voted against.
Women, Peace and Security
On 20 February, the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) met on South Sudan. UNMISS Deputy Special Representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti briefed. Among the issues members discussed during the meeting were women’s participation in public decision-making, reprisals against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders, and the increase in reported CRSV cases in 2022. According to the summary of the meeting—issued on 5 April by Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the IEG co-chairs, together with the UK, as the penholder on WPS—the UN verified 299 incidents of CRSV in South Sudan in 2022, compared with 194 in 2021. While the majority of these cases were attributed to non-state armed groups, 38 percent were attributed to the armed forces and 5 percent to the police. Among other recommendations put forward by UN Women, which serves as the IEG secretariat, was for the Council to request enhanced gender analysis in the Secretary-General’s reports, with particular attention to “the reasons behind the persistent under-representation of women in decision-making and the continued high levels of sexual violence” in South Sudan.
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.
The interim report describes “widespread subnational violence, pervasive human rights abuses, including endemic and systemic conflict-related sexual violence, and humanitarian and economic crises” and notes that “key humanitarian indicators, most notably food security, are at their worst levels since the achievement of independence”. The report expresses concern that despite the graduation of some NUF, there was no clarity on their deployment and that “fragmentation, not unification, is the prevailing force beyond Juba”.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate key issue for the Council is the extension of the sanctions regime and the mandate renewal of the Panel of Experts.
A related issue is assessing progress achieved on the five benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577 of 28 May 2021 to guide the Council in reviewing the arms embargo. South Sudan has been calling for the lifting of the arms embargo, an issue on which Council members are divided. These benchmarks address the following:
- completion of the Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) process contained in the R-ARCSS;
- formation of a unified command structure for the NUF and allocation of necessary resources for the planning and implementation of the redeployment of the NUF;
- progress on the establishment and implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process;
- progress on proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles; and
- the implementation of an action plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
Another key issue for the Council is the implementation of the arms embargo and targeted sanctions.
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 make progress towards implementing the outstanding tasks 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.
An option for Council members is to renew the sanctions regime while retaining the benchmarks and calling for further progress in their implementation.
Although the focus of the Council’s engagement next month is on the South Sudan sanctions regime, the Council could also consider adopting a presidential statement urging the parties to implement the R-ARCSS in an inclusive and timely matter.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The discussion on sanctions imposed on South Sudan remains a divisive issue in the Council. When the Council last renewed the sanctions regime in May 2022 through resolution 2633, five Council members abstained—China, Gabon, then-Council members India and Kenya, and Russia.
Several Council members, including France, the UK, and the US, believe that sanctions are a useful tool to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the R-ARCSS. These members maintain that the arms embargo, initially imposed in July 2018 with the adoption of resolution 2428, has contributed to the reduction of violence by curtailing the flow of weapons to South Sudan. Therefore, they expressed concern that the lifting of the arms embargo would negatively affect the security situation.
On the other hand, China and Russia have long opposed the South Sudan sanctions regime. African members of the Council have also expressed concerns about maintaining the sanctions regime, which in their view, could undermine progress in the political and security spheres.
The AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and IGAD have repeatedly called for lifting the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan, and several regional states have expressed opposition to the arms embargo. In a 28 February communiqué, the AUPSC appealed to the international community to lift the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on South Sudan.
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 Resolutions|
|15 March 2023S/RES/2677||This was the resolution that renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2024.|
|26 May 2022S/RES/2633||This renewed the sanctions regime for one year.|
|22 February 2023S/2023/135||This was the 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|6 March 2023S/PV.9274||This was a briefing on South Sudan.|