Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will be briefed on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, which members expect to receive by 13 June.
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, 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. It added 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). It further noted that attacks on humanitarian workers and looting of their supplies have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in the country.
In a 24 May press conference, Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom assessed the challenges facing the country and the UNMISS’ efforts to address those challenges. Haysom noted that, according to the mission’s assessment, the constitution-making process, election-planning tasks, and several aspects of transitional security arrangements are behind schedule. As to whether the elections could be held in December 2024, Haysom noted that currently, the conditions do not exist to hold such elections as the structures are not established for a transparent, free, and fair election. He added that there are numerous steps that the government and other stakeholders need to take to create these conditions, including the passage of the National Electoral Bill, the reconstitution of the Political Parties Council, and progress on the Constitution Making Bill.
Haysom expressed concerns about the effect of the country’s dire economic situation, notably on increased criminality and attacks on humanitarian workers, including looting of food and non-food aid. He said that climate shocks have compounded the existing humanitarian and economic crisis, affecting three-quarters of the South Sudanese population. Haysom added that the ongoing clashes in Sudan have led to an influx of refugees and returnees in South Sudan and that, according to reports, the competition for access to basic needs, such as water, has taken on an ethnic dimension in Renk, Eastern Nile State, sparking conflict between Nuer and Dinka communities.
According to the data published by UNHCR on 25 May, a total of 76,825 people have crossed into South Sudan from Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan on 15 April, including 2,039 Sudanese refugees, 2,443 non-Sudanese refugees, and 72,343 refugee returnees, according to UNHCR. In light of these developments, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths allocated $8 million on 19 May from the UN Central Emergency Fund to South Sudan to support the humanitarian response.
In a 24 May press release, the Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in South Sudan, Peter Van der Auweraert, condemned a targeted attack and looting of humanitarian assets outside the UN compound in Bor, Jonglei State, that took place a day earlier. According to the statement, approximately seven metric tonnes of food aid belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP) was looted. In response to the attack, the WFP paused operations out of Bor. The WFP Country Director in South Sudan, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, said that the pause in operations “will have an impact upon more than a million people in Jonglei and Pibor, many of whom are women and children, who rely on the assistance WFP provides”.
On 26 April, the Panel of Experts of the 2106 South Sudan Sanctions Committee released its final report, in accordance with resolution 2633 of 26 May 2022. The report said that displacement and food security remain at their highest levels. It noted that the humanitarian and economic crises have set communities against one another in competition for increasingly scarce resources, compounded by flooding and impediments to humanitarian relief. The report added that oil revenues have failed to reach the institutions aimed at stabilising the situation through regular salary payments, humanitarian relief, and development. Accordingly, the report noted that “while some progress has been made towards the implementation of the peace agreement, delays continue to test the patience of those who remain hopeful that it will eventually deliver relief from insecurity and humanitarian hardship”.
Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country. According to the 18 March annual brief of the UNMISS Human Rights Division on violence affecting civilians, 3,469 cases were documented in 2022 relating to civilians, mostly of killing, injury, abduction, or 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, 6 and 96 percent, respectively.
On 30 May, the Security Council adopted resolution 2683 renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime until 31 May 2024—including targeted sanctions (assets freezes and travel bans) and an arms embargo. The resolution was adopted with 10 votes in favour and five abstentions (China, Gabon, Ghana, Mozambique, and Russia). (For more information, see our 29 May What’s in Blue story.)
Women, Peace and Security
At the 6 March briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, Malta noted that, over the past two years, the Security Council has been briefed on South Sudan six times by women from civil society and that it shares “their frustration with the pace of reform, the unmet quotas for women’s political participation and the high level of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence”. Malta urged South Sudan “to ensure that civil society organizations, including those for women and young people, are safe and respected and that their freedom remains unhindered”. Several participants referred to the International Conference on Women’s Transformative Leadership held in Juba from 13 to 15 February. Ecuador, for instance, said that the recommendations emerging from the conference “should be internalized in a cross-cutting manner in the peace and development agenda of South Sudan”. Albania said that the “alarming increase of conflict-related sexual violence and the large-scale abductions of women and children clearly indicate a need for the protection of civilians to remain a key priority” for UNMISS, while the United Arab Emirates highlighted women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in political discussion as an important factor for the success of the transitional period in South Sudan.
Peacebuilding Commission-Related Developments
In a 3 March letter, PBC chair Ambassador Ivan Šimonović (Croatia) submitted written advice to Council members ahead of the 6 March Council briefing on South Sudan. The PBC highlighted the importance of South Sudanese authorities continuing to improve participatory dialogue in the lead-up to the 2024 elections, including through widened civil and political space. It also stressed the importance of the transitional government continuing its efforts to build effective, inclusive, and accountable government institutions, including at the local level, to foster dialogue and reconciliation and to strengthen social cohesion. Among other points, the PBC called for improving the provision of socio-economic opportunities to address intercommunal violence and encouraged the government to continue to implement the youth and peace and security agenda in South Sudan at the national and local levels.
Key Issues and Options
An ongoing concern for the Council is the significant political challenges in South Sudan stemming from 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 issues of the R-ARCSS in accordance with the timelines set out in the roadmap.
A related 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 a timely and inclusive 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.)
An additional key issue for Council members is the humanitarian and food security situation. An option would be to seek regular briefings on these from OCHA.
The impact of the conflict in neighbouring Sudan on the humanitarian and political situation in South Sudan is also an important matter for the Council. In his 24 May press briefing, Haysom commended the efforts of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir towards finding a political solution to the conflict in Sudan. (Kiir is leading the mediation efforts on behalf of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development). At the same time, he encouraged Kiir to not allow the situation in Sudan to distract him from making progress in implementing the political roadmap in South Sudan.
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 the UK and the US expressed reservations about extending the transitional period in August 2022 and called on the government to demonstrate its commitment to implementing the R-ARCSS in line with the deadlines set out in the roadmap. On the other hand, in the 6 March briefing, Russia said, “[W]e believe that the decision to extend the transitional period until February 2025 is the right one under the current circumstances”.
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 also continue to colour Council dynamics.
The negotiations on the resolution renewing sanctions on South Sudan, until 31 May 2024, were contentious. It seems that members such as the A3, China, and Russia were of the view that the Council should make efforts towards the progressive easing or lifting of sanctions on South Sudan. China apparently maintained the position that the sanction measures should be eased substantially in order to support the country in enhancing its capacity-building and better implementing the R-ARCSS. On the other hand, several Council members—including Brazil, France, Switzerland, and the UK—were in favour of renewing the sanctions regime. Apparently, while acknowledging the progress achieved by the South Sudanese government on some of the key benchmarks, they pointed to the lack of progress on other benchmarks, including the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles. These members also maintained that the benchmarks remain relevant and necessary.
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.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|26 April 2023S/2023/294||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan submitted pursuant to resolution 2633 (2022).|