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Adoption of a Resolution on South Sudan

This afternoon (24 December), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution authorising an increase in the military and police capacity of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The draft resolution, which was circulated yesterday, is a response to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in several parts of South Sudan. This crisis was precipitated by a political struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) that boiled over into violence and has resulted in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of displaced.

There has been significant engagement by the Council on South Sudan since 16 December, when President Salva Kiir claimed that Riek Machar, his former Vice-President, had initiated a coup attempt that led to large scale violence, an accusation denied by Machar. Over the past week, the Council has been briefed on South Sudan once under “any other business” (17 December) and twice in consultations (20 and 23 December). It also issued two press statements on the issue, one on 17 December (SC/11221) and the other on 20 December (SC/11227). Thus, the Council’s adoption of a resolution later today will mark its third outcome on South Sudan in a one week period.

Yesterday (23 December), shortly after noon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a press briefing during which he said that he would deliver a letter (S/2013/758) to the Council with recommendations for enhancing the capacity of UNMISS later in the day. (The letter was received by Council members shortly after 4pm.)

At 5 pm, Council members met to receive a briefing from Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet in consultations on the Secretary-General’s proposed plan to augment the capacity of UNMISS. Mulet’s briefing painted a stark picture of the severity of the crisis, as it was reported that there are now approximately 100,000 internally displaced persons in South Sudan and about 45,000 seeking protection in and around UN facilities. To address the crisis, the Secretary-General’s plan calls for an increase in the troop ceiling by 5,500 and an increase in police personnel by 423 as a temporary measure, relying on peacekeepers and enablers being transferred from other UN peace operations. Among the enablers mentioned in the Secretary-General’s letter are three utility helicopters, three attack helicopters and one C130 military transport aircraft.

All Council members understand the severity of the crisis in South Sudan, and there was widespread support at yesterday’s consultations for the need to enhance both the military and police strength of the mission in accordance with the Secretary-General’s recommendations. A draft resolution was circulated by the US based on these recommendations. It seems that the resolution likely to be adopted this afternoon will increase the troop ceiling of the mission from 7,000 to 12,500 troops and the police level from 900 to 1,323, specifically in order to help enhance the mission’s ability to protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance. These additional peacekeepers, as well as force enablers, will come from other missions – notably the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) – subject to agreement from the relevant troop- and police-contributing countries. It also appears that the Council will request the Secretary-General to report in 15 days and at least every 30 days afterwards on the progress of implementation.

As the Council prepares to adopt this resolution, it appears that two key issues are on the minds of several members. One is the pace at which the additional peacekeepers can be transferred to the mission, a point noted by Ambassadors Gerard Araud (France) and Samantha Power (US) at the stakeout after yesterday’s consultations. The need for rapid enhancement of the mission is critical, given how quickly the security situation in South Sudan has deteriorated and how urgent the need is to protect civilians. Power also said at the stakeout that the Secretary-General’s reporting will be a key factor in helping Council members to assess how effectively the mission is protecting civilians as well as what impact the temporary transfer of resources and personnel from other missions has on the work of those missions.

Another key issue is the widespread understanding that this is a political dispute that has deteriorated into large scale violence. This is likely a reason why both recent press statements on the issue and the draft resolution highlight the need for dialogue among the parties in conflict with one another. Along these lines, the draft resolution welcomes the recent diplomatic effort by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) ministerial group to mediate among key political figures in South Sudan. Additionally, Power noted, also at the stakeout yesterday, that Kiir has agreed to meet with Machar without preconditions, while Machar has demanded that Kiir release the 11 key SPLM figures that were detained early in the crisis before engaging in such a dialogue.

At today’s adoption, it is possible that Ambassador Francis Deng (South Sudan) will request the opportunity to participate in the meeting. Following the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to address the press at the Security Council stakeout.

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