September 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2023
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action  

In September, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, which members expect to receive by 8 September.  

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 implement its key outstanding tasks. (Key aspects of the roadmap relate to the unification of forces and their redeployment, the drafting of the permanent constitution, and the electoral process.) The original transitional period in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February. 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. The government also declared that there would be no more extensions of the timelines.   

The most recent quarterly report of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, covering the period from 1 April to 30 June, was released on 22 July. It noted that the critical pending tasks outlined in the roadmap either remained unfinished or had not yet commenced, notably the passage of the 2023 National Election Bill and the reconstitution of the National Constitution Review Commission and the Political Parties Council. It said that, despite the graduation of 55,000 troops between August 2022 and January, there was no progress on the unification of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF). The main reasons for the delayed deployment of the NUF are the unresolved unification of the middle- and lower-level command echelons and the lack of funding for deployment, the report added.  

The quarterly report further noted that in light of South Sudan’s reliance for revenue on oil exports through Port Sudan, the RTGoNU has set up an emergency task force to monitor continuously the impact of the ongoing conflict in Sudan on crude oil exports. The South Sudanese government had also negotiated with the Sudanese warring parties to ensure the safety of the oil installations and pipelines in Sudan.  

In a 2 August press conference, Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom noted that the country is not currently ready for elections, but “elections could be held on schedule if there is adequate political will, a practical political approach to the arrangements and commensurate resources are applied to achieving the benchmarks in the roadmap”. The South Sudanese government needs to make several critical decisions, he said, including with regard to the type and format of elections, the establishment of relevant bodies and legal structures that can address election-related disputes, the census, voter registration, and the inclusion of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the election process. Other issues that need to be addressed urgently relate to transnational security arrangements, particularly the ranking of the middle echelons of the uniformed forces and the training and deployment of the NUF. Haysom added that at the request of the South Sudanese government, UNMISS, the AU, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have presented a list of immediate decisions about elections that need to be taken by the parties to the peace agreement. (On 24 January, the South Sudanese government had requested comprehensive UN electoral assistance for the upcoming election process.) 

Haysom also highlighted the impact of the conflict in Sudan on the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan. He said that congestion in and around the border towns with Sudan and increased competition for scarce resources because of the influx of refugees from Sudan could exacerbate existing inter-communal tensions between the returnees and host communities and among some of the returnee communities. In this regard, he explained that UNMISS has intensified its patrols and reinforced its presence in Renk to mitigate and prevent outbreaks of violence.   

According to data published by UNHCR, at the time of writing, a total of 229,678 individuals have crossed into South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan on 15 April, including 16,006 Sudanese refugees, 3,435 non-Sudanese refugees, and 210,237 refugee returnees.  

In a 26 July press release, OCHA requested $26.4 million to continue providing transportation until the end of the year for people entering South Sudan from Sudan so they can reach their final destinations. The press release said that without such support, more people will become stranded in and around the border towns where humanitarian services are already overstretched. 

Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country. According to the 16 June quarterly brief on violence affecting civilians (covering January to March), UNMISS’ Human Rights Division documented 194 incidents of violence affecting 920 civilians. During the reporting period, the proportion of civilians killed increased by 35 percent (from 300 to 405) and incidents related to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) decreased by 78 percent (from 63 to 14) in comparison with the same reporting period in 2022, according to the quarterly brief. 

On 14 August, the US Departments of State, Labor, and Commerce issued a business advisory on South Sudan, highlighting growing reputational, financial, and legal risks to US businesses and citizens conducting business or transactions with companies that have significant ties to the R-TGoNU or that are controlled by family members of government officials. A press release about the advisory said that the “transitional government’s continued failure to adhere to its own laws in the transparent management of its oil revenue could adversely impact US businesses, individuals, other persons and their operations in South Sudan and the region”.  

Peacebuilding Commission-Related Developments   

On 20 June, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ivan Šimonović, briefed the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) about South Sudan during an ECOSOC meeting on “Transition from Relief to Development”. Šimonović reiterated the importance of the full and timely implementation of the R-ARCSS. He called for investment in capacity- and institution-building to ensure the effective delivery of and access to basic social and economic services. Efficient and inclusive state institutions and governance at all levels are critical for peacebuilding and fostering the transition from humanitarian relief to long-term sustainable development, Šimonović said. Among other points, he highlighted civil society’s role in advancing social cohesion, and the importance of partnerships, including with international financial institutions.    

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 make progress in implementing the outstanding issues of the R-ARCSS in accordance with the timelines set out in the roadmap. Council members could consider adopting a presidential statement urging the parties to implement the roadmap in a timely and inclusive manner. Another option is to hold an informal interactive dialogue (IID) with the various stakeholders of the South Sudanese political process, the leadership of UNMISS, and interested regional and subregional organisations. (The IID is a closed format that, unlike consultations, allows for the participation of non-UN officials and briefers.) 

A related issue for several Council members is the need for the government to engage with civil society in relation to the roadmap and its implementation. The civil society briefer Albania intends to invite in September may provide insights on challenges to implementing the agreement and to holding elections. 

Another option is to consider a Council visiting mission to South Sudan to assess the situation on the ground and engage with the various parties to the R-ARCSS. (The last Council visiting mission to South Sudan was in 2019.)  

An additional key issue for Council members is the humanitarian and food security situations. An option would be to seek regular briefings on these matters from OCHA.  

The impact of the conflict in neighbouring Sudan on the humanitarian and political situations in South Sudan is also an important matter for the Council.  

Council Dynamics  

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 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 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 2023S/RES/2677 This was the resolution that renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2024.

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