May 2024 Monthly Forecast


South Sudan

Expected Council Action 

In May, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution to extend the South Sudan sanctions regime (targeted sanctions and the arms embargo), which expires on 31 May, and renew 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 30 April 2025.

Key Recent Developments

The Secretary-General’s most recent report on South Sudan, dated 26 February, noted 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 holding the national elections in December, remained behind schedule. In this regard, the report stated that “an assessment as to whether a critical mass of compliance has been achieved will be made in April 2024”.

This assessment, which the Secretary-General submitted to the Council on 8 April, was aimed at determining whether the minimum political and technical preconditions for a peaceful electoral process exist and, if not, what political decisions and resources would be required to achieve that objective. It analysed the progress made on the outstanding tasks, consolidating them in three categories: technical preparations, political and security preparations, and legislative reform. The report said that progress was made on the establishment of the necessary electoral institutions—the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), the Political Parties Council (PPC), and the National Election Commission (NEC); however, funding for these institutions remains limited. It further observed that the parties to the R-ARCSS are yet to determine the type and number of elections to be conducted before the end of the transitional period. At the same time, the census and voter registration process also remain behind schedule, the report added.

Regarding the security preparations, the report said that the deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) remained limited, with only six percent of the planned 83,000 NUF personnel deployed by the end of March. The training and deployment of the second batch of NUF had not yet commenced, and the parties had also not reached agreement on the middle command structure of the unified force. The NUF appeared ill-prepared and incapable of providing the requisite security guarantees before, during, and after the national elections. The report also expressed concerns about the widespread intercommunal violence and the presence of small arms and light weapons across the country.

The report welcomed the inter-party dialogue on the election process among South Sudanese political parties and urged the South Sudanese leaders to allocate the required resources to support the institutions necessary for democratic transition. On 9 April, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom briefed Council members on the 8 April assessment report under “any other business”. (For more background and information, see the brief on South Sudan in our April 2024 Monthly Forecast.)

From 16 to 18 April, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa undertook a working visit to South Sudan to discuss the implementation of the R-ARCSS ahead of the envisioned elections in December. (South Africa serves as the chair of the AU Ad Hoc High-Level Committee for South Sudan, known as the C5, that comprises Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa.) During his visit, Ramaphosa met with several high-level South Sudanese officials, including President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar. According to media reports, the meetings focused on exploring avenues for supporting the implementation of the R-ARCSS, including with regard to holding elections in December, mobilising resources to support the key electoral institutions—the NCRC, the PPC, and the NEC—and providing the necessary technical and logistical support to the relevant institutions, among other things.

The humanitarian situation in the country remains difficult, with nearly nine million people—almost 76 percent of the country’s population—in need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, recent months have witnessed an increase in incidents that impeded humanitarian access. In a 12 April press briefing, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that OCHA recorded 40 incidents related to humanitarian access restrictions in March, 15 of which involved violence against humanitarian personnel and assets. Meanwhile, other incidents were attributed to bureaucratic impediments and movement restrictions, mostly in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states.

Despite the government’s assurances that the UN humanitarian, development, and peacekeeping operations would not be subject to taxes, trucks carrying fuel and other critical supplies have been held up at various depots and borders, according to a 23 April UNMISS press release. Fuel reserves of the UN and its agencies in the country are running out and further delay would “prevent the delivery of millions of dollars of aid during a severe humanitarian crisis”. It added that humanitarian airdrops had already been suspended, affecting 60,000 people in need. At the same time, the mission had been forced to review its patrols and the repair and construction of critical infrastructure and to reduce support for peace and electoral processes.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 5 April, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to discuss the final report of its panel of experts, circulated to Council members on 15 March.

On 15 April, the Secretary-General transmitted to the Council an assessment report on the implementation of the benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577 of 28 May 2021 for modifying, suspending, or progressively lifting the arms embargo. The report found that the South Sudanese government has made some progress in the implementation of two benchmarks, namely formation of a unified command structure for the NUF and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). It added that progress on these two benchmarks needs to be enhanced without delay. However, no progress was noted on three benchmarks that relate to completion of the Strategic Defense and Security Review process contained in the R-ARCSS; the establishment and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process; and the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles. The Secretary-General expressed concern about the continued lack of funding and political support for the DDR process, along with the lack of progress on the collection and disposal of long- and medium-range heavy weapons.

Women, Peace and Security

The annual report of the Secretary-General on CRSV, which was issued on 4 April, said that in 2023 UNMISS documented incidents of CRSV affecting 118 women, 98 girls, four men and one boy, mostly in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, and Upper Nile states. Cases were attributed to several actors, including organised armed groups, community-based militia, government security forces, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In his report, the Secretary-General called on the South Sudanese government to investigate all incidents of sexual violence and to expedite the implementation of the 2014 joint communiqué between South Sudan and the UN on the prevention of CRSV, as well as the action plans for the armed forces and the police on addressing CRSV. He also urged the government to “adopt legislation on victim and witness protection, in line with international standards”.

Key Issues and Options

An immediate key issue for the Council is the extension of the South Sudan sanctions regime (targeted sanctions and the arms embargo) and renewing the mandate of the panel of experts assisting the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee. In their discussions in May, Council members are likely to be guided by the findings and the recommendations of the panel’s 15 March final report, as well as the progress made by the South Sudanese authorities against the benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577.

One option for Council members is to renew the sanctions measures and the panel’s mandate for one year while retaining the benchmarks and calling for further progress in their implementation.

An ongoing concern for the Council is the significant political and security 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 towards implementing the outstanding tasks. Looking ahead to the general elections, expected to be held in December, several members may reiterate their call for completing the outstanding tasks in a timely manner to ensure peaceful, transparent, inclusive, and credible elections. They may also continue to encourage South Sudanese authorities to ensure free civic space and call upon all parties to seek dialogue and consensus to resolve any election-related disputes.

Ahead of the election period, Council members could consider a 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 took place in 2019.)

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 2023 through resolution 2683, five Council members abstained—China, Mozambique, Russia, and then-Council members Gabon and Ghana.

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 argue 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, and express 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 undermines progress in the political and security spheres.

The AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have repeatedly called for lifting the arms embargo on South Sudan, and several regional states have also expressed opposition to the arms embargo. In a 7 March communiqué, the AUPSC called on the international community to lift the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on South Sudan.

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

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Security Council Resolutions
30 May 2023S/RES/2683 This resolution renewed the South Sudan sanctions regime for one year.
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 April 2024S/2024/309 This was the assessment report on the implementation of the benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577.
26 February 2024S/2024/188 This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.
Security Council Letters
8 April 2024S/2024/297 This letter transmitted the assessment regarding South Sudan’s election preparedness and outstanding tasks related to the implementation of the R-ARCSS.

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