April 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2024
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South Sudan

Expected Council Action   

In April, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) before its expiration on 30 April.  

Key Recent Developments 

The Secretary-General’s most recent report on South Sudan, dated 26 February, notes that implementation of critical benchmarks outlined in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), necessary for elections to be held in December, remains behind schedule. Key issues that are yet to be determined include the constitution-making process, the type and number of elections, the electoral timeline, voter registration modalities, an integrated election security plan, and an election dispute resolution mechanism. In this regard, the report states that “an assessment as to whether a critical mass of compliance has been achieved will be made in April 2024”. (For background, see the South Sudan brief in our March 2024 Monthly Forecast.) 

Security Council members convened for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in South Sudan. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed in the open session, highlighting the importance of political will, systematic planning, and adequate resources to realising the aspirations of the South Sudanese people regarding elections. He added that “political competition amongst the ruling elite, increased inter-communal clashes and the added strain inflicted by the influx of returnees and refugees escaping the conflict in Sudan have all combined towards an assessment that elections, when held, are going to take place in an environment of elevated tensions and a constrained civic and political space in the country”. 

During the closed consultations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom apparently said that, while the four core elements of the UNMISS mandate remain relevant in the current circumstances, the demands and expectations of the mission have expanded over time. (The four key elements of UNMISS’ mandate are: protection of civilians; creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; supporting the implementation of the R-ARCSS and the peace process; and monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.) It seems that Haysom further said that the UNMISS mandate renewal provides an opportunity to adopt a strategic and resource-informed approach that recognises the need for having adequate capacity in place ahead of the envisioned elections and to support a peaceful exit from South Sudan’s transitional phase. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 4 March.) 

On 14 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2726, renewing the mandate of UNMISS until 30 April. It appears that this technical rollover was pursued to allow the Council sufficient time to review the conclusions of the UN Secretariat’s assessment regarding South Sudan’s election preparedness and then to have a substantial discussion on UNMISS’ mandate renewal, especially on the mandate’s technical electoral assistance component. (For background, see our What’s in Blue story of 13 March.) 

On 20 March, the members of the Troika on South Sudan (Norway, the UK, and the US) issued a joint statement, calling on the South Sudanese government to urgently take steps necessary to ensure genuine and peaceful elections at the end of this year. The statement urged the government to use public revenue in a transparent manner to address public needs, including funding and operationalisation of electoral institutions. 

With less than nine months left until the national elections, parties to the R-ARCSS remain divided on election preparedness. In a 20 March press release, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), South Sudan’s ruling party, expressed its willingness to participate in elections at the end of this year. The press release noted that the institutions and legislation necessary to hold elections in December, such as the Political Parties Council (PPC), the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), have been put in place. At the same time, it argued that the implementation of the rest of the provisions of the R-ARCSS, namely, a new census, a permanent constitution, and the return of refugees, are irrelevant for holding elections in December and should not be used as a pretext for the extending the transition period. The press release proposed that presidential and gubernatorial elections take place in December and parliamentary elections be held one year after the elected government comes into place. On the other hand, the SPLM-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) expressed concerns about the lack of necessary preparations and suggested a period of 24 months to complete the pending tasks.    

In a 21 March press release, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC)—the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS—noted that despite their reconstitution, bodies such as the PPC, NEC, and NCRC remain unfunded. The way forward on elections, RJMEC said, “depends on the parties meeting and engaging in dialogue openly and constructively, in the spirit of collegiality and consensus”. In this regard, the RJMEC has written to the South Sudanese government, stressing the importance of inter-party consultations, and having a constructive dialogue with other stakeholders, according to the press release.  

Intercommunal and subnational violence persists in many areas of the country. In a 27 February press briefing, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that UNMISS had established a temporary operating base in Abiemnhom in Unity state, in line with its protection of civilians mandate and to improve security in areas bordering Warrap state and Abyei—a disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border. UNMISS also established a temporary operating base in Maper, near the borders of Lakes, Unity, and Warrap states. The mission has identified Maper as a conflict hotspot characterised by frequent cross-border cattle raids, intercommunal violence, and widespread criminality, especially along key transportation routes. (For background, see the South Sudan brief in our March 2024 Monthly Forecast.) 

Human-Rights Related Developments  

On 1 March, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan presented its latest report (A/HRC/55/26), dated 29 February, to the Human Rights Councill (HRC) in Geneva. In her remarks, Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission, said that the investigations conducted by the Commission point towards “an absolutely unacceptable situation in South Sudan, whereby families and communities are devastated by human rights violations and abuses by armed forces, militias and state institutions acting with impunity.” She mentioned that while commitments have been made by the South Sudanese authorities in addressing the drivers of violence and repression in the country, “we continue to see a lack of political will to implement the measures necessary to improve millions of lives”. Among other things, the 29 February report noted that key measures outlined in the R-ARCSS remain unimplemented, including security and transitional justice institutions, highlighted the instances of recruitment of children in the armed forces, and documented persisting armed conflict, violence and human rights violations in the country. The report called on the South Sudanese government, among other points, to allocate necessary resources for functional and effective rule of law and justice institutions, guarantee democratic space to enable credible elections with legitimate outcomes, and accelerate and ensure the deployments, resourcing and payment of the necessary unified forces. It also recommended that UN member states assist the South Sudanese government to take measures to end violence, especially conflict-related sexual violence.  

During its 55th session, the HRC held an enhanced interactive dialogue on 1 March on the Commission’s 29 February report. In his remarks during the session, Christian Volkmann, director of the field operations and technical cooperation division of the OHCHR, expressed concern about the current human rights situation in South Sudan. He stressed that inter- and intra-communal violence continue to pose significant threats to human rights, notably in Warrap, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatoria states: for instance, in 2023, UNMISS’ Human Rights Division documented 885 incidents, affecting 3,340 civilians, including 2,221 men, 516 women, and 603 children, reflecting a 24 percent increase compared to 2022. Volkmann noted that while there was some notable progress in advancing transitional justice in 2023, it had been slow.   

PBC-Related Developments 

In a letter to the Council, dated 11 March, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Ambassador Sérgio França Danese (Brazil) submitted advice on behalf of the PBC regarding the UNMISS mandate renewal. Among other points, the PBC suggested the Council consider: 

    • calling for the provision of required funds for all the electoral management bodies; 
    • calling for the establishment of all outstanding institutions and processes and the development of effective security arrangements that would ensure an environment conducive to the holding of free, fair and credible elections; 
    • encouraging the transitional government to ensure the implementation of a robust code of conduct for all political stakeholders; and  
    • encouraging the international community to increase its support to the government to address the “spiraling downturn in the economy, taking into account the significant effects of climate-related events such as frequent and intense flooding and localized drought”. 
Key Issues and Options 

The key issue for the Council in April is the UNMISS mandate renewal. In their discussions, Council members are likely to be guided by the UN Secretariat’s assessment regarding South Sudan’s election preparedness and outstanding tasks related to the implementation of the R-ARCSS. Ahead of the negotiations, one option for the members would be to hold closed consultations with Special Representative Haysom to receive a briefing on the assessment report and exchange views on the possible way forward.  

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 on the implementation of the UNMISS protection of civilians mandate, dated 4 December 2023, 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 

Most Council members share similar concerns about the delays in implementing the R-ARCSS, the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence, and the economic and humanitarian crises in South Sudan. There are, however, differences in tone in members’ statements. Some members, such as the US, are more critical than others about what they perceive as the South Sudanese government’s lack of political will to implement the R-ARCSS. During the 5 March Council briefing on the situation in South Sudan, the US said that in the absence of urgent action from the South Sudanese government, “allocating further financial resources for election preparations…sends a wrong message”. It added that future funding for the elections must be accompanied by a renewed push on the South Sudanese peace process and improved humanitarian access.  

On the other hand, Council members—such as China, Russia, and the members of the “A3 plus one” grouping (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana)—are less critical of the government. In their statements, these members often highlight the progress made by the South Sudanese government amidst the challenges facing South Sudan, including the dire humanitarian situation, intercommunal violence, and the looming economic crisis. These members advocate for enhanced international financial support to assist South Sudan in its political transition and strengthening its capacity-building.  

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. 

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Security Council Resolutions
14 March 2024S/RES/2726 This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMISS until 30 April 2024.
Security Council Meeting Records
5 March 2024S/PV.9564 This was a meeting on the situation in South Sudan.
Secretary-General’s Reports
26 February 2024S/2024/188 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.
6 December 2023S/2023/955 This report was an independent assessment of the implementation of the UNMISS protection of civilians mandate.

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