March 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 February 2024
Download Complete Forecast: PDF

South Sudan

Expected Council Action  

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 will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day UNMISS report, released on 24 February.

Key Recent Developments

Special Representative and Head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom briefed the Council on 14 December 2023. He expressed concern that the conditions required for holding credible and peaceful elections, scheduled for December, are not in place. As noted in the Secretary-General’s 24 February report, key issues that remain to be determined include, among others: the constitution-making process, the type and number of elections, an elections security plan, and an elections dispute mechanism. The report also emphasised the need for political parties to agree to a political code of conduct outlining the norms of legitimate political behaviour for the election.

In his briefing, Haysom maintained that a “critical mass” of such key issues must be addressed by April for peaceful and credible elections to be held by December, based on his discussions with electoral experts. He added that South Sudan could still decide to move forward with elections in December without such pre-conditions in place but cautioned that comparable experiences “suggest that elections are a likely trigger for relapses into violence in societies emerging from conflict unless adequate time, resources and confidence-building measures are invested in their preparation”.

On 3 November 2023, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit issued presidential decrees to begin the process of reconstituting South Sudan’s National Constitutional Review Commission, National Elections Commission, and the Political Parties’ Council. In an 8 February statement at the 34th plenary meeting of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, Haysom acknowledged the swearing-in of these institutions but cautioned that the “inability to finalize the Transitional Security Arrangements remains a threat to peace before, during and after the elections”. In this regard, he said that it was critical for the parties to “agree on the middle command structure, advance the SDSR [Strategic Defence and Security Review] process in order to facilitate the commencement of security sector reforms, and to train and deploy the Necessary Unified Forces”.

The security situation in South Sudan remains fragile. In his 12 December 2023 report to the Council, the Secretary-General highlighted several reasons for the grim security environment and its effects on civilians. These include the return of thousands of South Sudanese from war-torn Sudan, leading to land disputes; violence perpetrated by the National Salvation Front (NAS), an armed group that continues to fight government forces; the arrest by government forces of civilians suspected of supporting the NAS; and inter-communal violence.

In an 11 December 2023 press statement, Council members condemned violence in Warrap State in South Sudan and in the Abyei Administrative Area, a disputed territory straddling Sudan and South Sudan, that led to the deaths of some 75 people in November 2023 and ten people in December 2023. In the statement, members called on the transitional government in South Sudan to “contain the violence and defuse tension between the affected communities”.

On 1 February, 38 people died and 52 were wounded in inter-communal violence in an area of Lakes State that borders Unity and Warrap States. The fighting was sparked when herders from Warrap entered Lakes State in search of water and pastureland and clashed with local inhabitants.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh visited South Sudan from 18-23 February to assess the implementation of the R-ARCSS and planning for the elections. At a press conference in Juba at the end of the visit, Lacroix underscored the UN’s continued commitment to supporting South Sudan, notwithstanding crises in other parts of the world that were “overwhelming the media landscape”, while Tetteh emphasised that elections “are not an exit strategy for ending a peace process…but the opportunity for people to focus their attention on the important task of nation building”.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 17 February, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan concluded its twelfth visit. In a press release at the end of the mission, Yasmin Sooka, Chairperson of the Commission, said the Commission’s investigations found that “the violence and gross human rights violations continue with impunity, with women and children being the main target of these crimes.” The Commission called on South Sudanese leaders to end political and local conflicts and carefully navigate the conclusion of the country’s political transition to achieve durable peace and prevent violence and gross human rights violations. During their visit, the Commission met with the President, the First-Vice President, senior cabinet ministers and legislators. Its members also engaged with civil society, victims and survivors, human rights defenders, and journalists.

Women, Peace and Security

From 11 to 14 December 2023, members of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) undertook a visiting mission to South Sudan. Representatives of France, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Russia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US, as well as then-Council members Gabon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), participated in the visit, which was proposed by the two IEG co-chairs for 2023, Switzerland and the UAE. (In January, Sierra Leone succeeded the UAE as IEG co-chair after the conclusion of the UAE’s Council term at the end of 2023.) Representatives from UN Women, which acts as the IEG Secretariat, also attended.

The visit took place mainly in Juba and featured several meetings with South Sudanese government officials and UN representatives in South Sudan. The participants also had the opportunity to meet with civil society representatives and women political leaders and to visit a UN Mine Action Service mine action demonstration site, where they met with women deminers. On 13 December 2023, IEG members travelled to Wau in Western Bahr el Ghazal State for a one-day visit.

On 16 January, Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl (Switzerland) briefed Council members on the visiting mission under “any other business”, a standing item in closed consultations. This was the first Council meeting to be held to discuss a visit by IEG members. Field visits by the IEG on WPS are included in the 2016 IEG guidelines as an option to improve the flow of information on WPS to the Security Council. The visit to South Sudan marked the second visit undertaken by IEG members; the first was to Lebanon in June 2022.

Key Issues and Options

The key issue for the Council in March is how to approach the renewal of the UNMISS mandate. One option would be for the Council to adopt a technical rollover, renewing the mandate until the end of April. At that point, the Council could decide whether the mandate needs adaptation, depending on the status of South Sudan’s preparations for the envisioned December elections and other outstanding tasks related to the implementation of the R-ARCSS. Another option for the Council would be to renew the mandate for the standard one-year period.

An additional important issue is how UNMISS can enhance its capacity to protect civilians, which is one of the mission’s core mandated tasks. In keeping with the recommendations of the independent assessment of the implementation of the UNMISS protection of civilians mandate, the Council could encourage the mission to adopt a more proactive posture and expand its footprint by, for example, responding quickly to outbreaks of violence, systematically conducting patrols to protect women and girls carrying out subsistence activities (such as gathering firewood) at camps for internally displaced persons and at the Malakal protection of civilians site, and employing more community liaison assistants.

Another key issue is the ongoing restrictions on humanitarian access and violence against aid workers in South Sudan. One option in this regard would be for the Council president to conduct a démarche on behalf of all Council members to South Sudan, seeking its assistance in facilitating unfettered humanitarian access.

Council Dynamics

Council members remain concerned about the delays in the implementation of the R-ARCSS, including preparations for elections. Some Western countries have maintained that a lack of political will by South Sudan’s authorities is a key reason for these delays. Others are less critical of the government and advocate for enhanced international financial support to assist South Sudan in its political transition.

Differing views persist on the utility of the arms embargo on South Sudan. China, Russia, and African members have tended to view the arms embargo as counter-productive while others have seen this as an important tool in curtailing instability in the country.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan, while Ambassador Michael Imran Kanu (Sierra Leone) chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

Sign up for SCR emails

Security Council Resolutions
15 March 2023S/RES/2677 This was the resolution that renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2024.
Security Council Meeting Records
14 December 2023S/PV.9507 This meeting record was on a meeting on South Sudan.
Secretary-General’s Reports
6 December 2023S/2023/955 This report was an independent assessment of the implementation of the UNMISS protection of civilians mandate.
Security Council Press Statements
11 December 2023SC/15523 This statement strongly condemned violence in Warrap State, South Sudan, and the Abyei Administrative Area in November and December 2023.

Subscribe to receive SCR publications