Consultations on UN Mission in South Sudan and Sudan-South Sudan
The Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and on Sudan/South Sudan issues tomorrow morning. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous will brief on UNMISS, while Haile Menkerios, Head of the UN Office to the AU and Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, is expected to brief on Sudan-South Sudan. At press time, it was unclear if there would be an outcome. (An attempt at a press statement following the 12 March Sudan-South Sudan briefing stalled over an objection to the phrasing regarding the AU High-Level Implementation Panel [AUHIP] talks.)
Ladsous’ briefing on South Sudan will be an opportunity for Council members to seek greater clarity over the force generation and mandate of UNMISS moving forward. In his last report to the Council (S/2014/158), the Secretary-General requested that the surge capacity of the mission—which raised the ceiling of troops and police to 12,500 and 1,323, respectively—be kept in place for at least an additional year. On 3 April, the Secretary-General submitted a letter to the Council suggesting that the financial implications for doing so during the next year could be $223 million. The Council has yet to concur with this proposal, as at least one Council member has requested more information on the concept of force generation, the capacities of potential new forces, and their precise functions.
How these additional forces will be generated still needs to be addressed. While the temporary deployments authorised through resolution 2132 in December 2013 have had an impact, they have lagged behind schedule and the mission has been unable to reach its troop and police ceilings. There are also critical questions regarding the role of the potential Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Protection and Defence Force in relation to UNMISS. If it were to serve under the UNMISS umbrella, it would likely be funded by UN assessed contributions, and coordination between IGAD and UNMISS personnel would be enhanced. However, some members are concerned that such integration could compromise the impartiality of UNMISS, as it would bring in key regional actors who may have a stake in the outcome of the conflict. Likewise, there is concern among some Council members that such a force could regionalise the conflict. Council members may be interested in getting greater clarity on the role, mandate, and composition of such a force—as well as the nature of its relationship with UNMISS.
It seems that most Council members believe that UNMISS should remain focused on the core tasks it has been engaged in since the outset of the crisis in December 2013 (i.e., the protection of civilians, facilitating the provision of humanitarian access, and monitoring and reporting of human rights). There had been some discussion of the mission continuing to perform some statebuilding and peacebuilding activities (e.g., police training) in areas of South Sudan unaffected by conflict. However, it seems that several members are increasingly wary of this approach, given the severity of the security and humanitarian situation, the limited resources of the mission, and the implications of supporting a state whose armed forces are committing significant human rights violations.
Another important matter that will likely be raised tomorrow is the deepening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, which has reached alarming proportions. Thousands have died in the conflict, and over 900,000 have been displaced. As of 1 April, over 67,000 people were being sheltered in UNMISS “protection of civilians sites,” but these camps are overcrowded and, with the arrival of the rainy season, there are concerns that cholera, typhoid and other diseases might spread through the camps. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) released a statement earlier today accusing UNMISS leaders of showing an “indifference” to vulnerable displaced and announcing that “diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases account for more than 60 percent of the cases seen at MSF’s clinic in the (Tomping) camp” in Juba. The statement added the Tomping camp should be expanded to dry sections of the facility immediately, and that while UNMISS expects to close the camp in May, it will have difficulty moving the camp’s roughly 20,000 people before the onset of the rainy season. Given such concerns about overcrowding in UNMISS sites and the risk of the spread of diseases, there may be some questions about how additional safe space and resources can be made available to civilians.
Another humanitarian concern relates to reports that acute food insecurity affects approximately 3.7 million people in South Sudan. Given the restrictions on humanitarian access, the oncoming rainy season, and the widespread displacement, there is a tangible possibility of famine. Council members may be interested in a discussion of how UNMISS in coordination with humanitarian actors can strengthen its ability to facilitate the delivery of food and humanitarian assistance.
There may also be interest in updates on the status of the IGAD mediation in Addis Ababa. It seems that there has been little substantive process in recent weeks, with the parties not set to reconvene until 22 April.
Menkerios is likely to update Council members on the status of the remaining unresolved issues separating Sudan and South Sudan—including the final status of Abyei and the demarcation of the border—as well as the determination of the centre line of the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone and the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism between the two countries. With South Sudan mired in its own internal conflict, it has been difficult to move forward on any of these issues.
Another issue that Menkerios might discuss is the status of implementation of cooperation agreements signed on 27 September 2012. (These agreements deal with oil-sharing, cross-border trade, border security, nationality issues and other matters.) In this light, Council members may be interested in any information that Menkerios may be able to share on the meeting between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in Khartoum on 5 April. Media reports have indicated that during the meeting the two leaders discussed the cooperation agreements, as well as how both countries can work together to ensure that oil facilities in South Sudan are protected from rebels during the current conflict.
There may also be interest from Council members in the national dialogue process that Bashir has recently initiated. The Council welcomed Bashir’s 27 January announcement of this national dialogue in resolution 2148 on UNAMID earlier this month. Today, the AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma issued a press release welcoming the official beginning of the national dialogue, which took place during the 6 April National Political Parties Summit in Khartoum. However, some opponents of Bashir, wary of his motives, have argued that the 2015 elections should be postponed until an interim government is put in place to draft a new constitution. Council members may be interested in Menkerios’ views on the launch of the national dialogue, what it means for Sudan, and what the dynamics are among the country’s political parties and rebel groups in relation to the national dialogue.
A final issue that may be raised is the ongoing fighting and humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. In this respect, there may be interest to hear if the AUHIP might be able to play a role in bringing the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North and the government of Sudan back to the negotiating table, especially given the recent claim by Ibrahim Ghandour (an assistant to President Bashir) that the government is ready to reengage.