What's In Blue

Posted Wed 20 Mar 2013

UN Mission in South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (21 March) the Council will be briefed by Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The briefing will be followed by consultations as is customary whenever one of the periodic Secretary-General’s report on the situation in South Sudan and UNMISS is circulated. (Although no outcome is anticipated from the Council, it seems that Johnson may do a press briefing after the consultations.)

One issue that is likely to be covered is the efforts of UNMISS to protect civilians, given the ongoing deadly incidents of cattle raiding and inter-communal violence in South Sudan, especially in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Unity states (i.e. the tri-state area).
The latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/140), circulated on 8 March, notes that the “sheer scale of the task compared to the resources and capacity available to the Mission and to the Government presents ongoing challenges.”

Related to the inter-communal violence — and also of concern to Council members — is the fighting between South Sudan and the rebel group led by David Yau Yau, a member of the Murle community. Council members may be interested in an update on this fighting, as the army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), has engaged in violent clashes with Yau Yau’s forces in recent weeks. (For example, on 5 March, more than 28 rebels died in fighting with the SPLA in Jonglei state, and on 19 March, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that more than 60 people had been injured in clashes between the rebels and the SPLA, also in Jonglei.)

While Council members appear concerned about the recent inter-communal violence, it is unclear what steps they may take to address this challenge moving forward. An Arria formula meeting could provide analysis and strategies for addressing this violence.

Another area that is of concern to several Council members is the difficult human rights situation in South Sudan. In a press conference in Juba on 15 February, Johnson said that UNMISS was “disturbed by reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks against journalists, civil society and human rights activities.” Additionally, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, restrictions have been placed on human rights-related activities that come under UNMISS’s mandate. Council members may want further information on the human rights situation in South Sudan and steps that the government may be taking to address concerns about its human rights record.

Council members may also be interested in learning more about the work of the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) appointed on 9 January 2012 to consult throughout South Sudan and prepare a draft constitution by January 2013. As the NCRC was unable to meet this deadline, the Legislative Assembly recently extended its mandate until December 2014. Given previous delays in the NCRC’s work and budgetary constraints in South Sudan, some Council members may be interested in additional information on the planned activities of and financial support for the NCRC moving forward.

Another issue that may be raised in the discussion is the downing of an UNMISS helicopter on 21 December 2012 in Jonglei by South Sudan, which resulted in the deaths of four UNMISS crew members from the Russian Federation. The Council issued a press statement (SC/10873) deploring the incident on the day it occurred.

Some Council members are likely to be interested in information on steps that have been taken to avert similar incidents in the future, and also on the status of the investigations being conducted by South Sudan and the UN Secretariat Board of Inquiry. (At an event at the International Peace Institute on 11 March, Johnson indicated that South Sudan had promised a report on the incident by 10 May.)

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