What's In Blue

Adoption of Resolution on UN Mission in South Sudan

This afternoon (27 May), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution revising the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). While UNMISS does not expire until 15 July, Council members were keen to revise the mandate earlier to more appropriately address the security, humanitarian and political crisis facing South Sudan.

A first draft of the resolution was circulated on 8 May. Since then, there have been five negotiating sessions of the 15 members, in addition to bilateral exchanges, to finalise outstanding issues. The draft text was put under silence on 21st May, but silence was broken by Russia on 22 May. It appears that the remaining differences on the draft were addressed following bilateral discussions between Russia and US, the penholder on this issue. The draft resolution was then put into blue on Friday afternoon (23 May).
The draft resolution streamlines the UNMISS mandate so that it focuses on four key tasks: protection of civilians; monitoring and investigating human rights; creating enabling conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.

The streamlined mandate is a significant departure from the previous mandate, which included several statebuilding tasks. This change reflects several Council members’ view that UNMISS cannot support a government that has been accused of serious human rights violations. The draft resolution does however call for the mission to coordinate with the South Sudan police services to protect the large numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees in the hope that they will be able to return safely home in the not too distant future. However, the language of the draft makes it clear that this coordination is for specific operational purposes, and that the police will need to comply strictly with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, and abide by international human rights standards.

The draft resolution will maintain the increases in troop and police ceilings that the Council had temporary mandated in resolution 2132 on 24 December 2013, which raised the troop ceiling from 7,500 to 12,500 troops and the police ceiling from 900 to 1,323 personnel. The troop surge will include the approximately 2,500 troops who will form the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Protection Force but have yet to be deployed. Additional troop strength will also be derived from some of the battalions that are being deployed through inter-mission cooperation. The Nepalese battalion from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti and the Ghanaian battalion from UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire that were added to the mission following resolution 2132, come from downsising missions, so it is possible that they may be integrated into UNMISS’ force structure on a more than temporary basis.

In recent weeks, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has been discussing with IGAD officials the precise responsibilities of the IGAD Protection Force and its relationship to UNMISS. Council members, who were negotiating the draft resolution during this period, were regularly updated by DPKO on these discussions. On 21 May, DPKO circulated a letter to Council members delineating what the Protection Force will do and what its relationship to UNMISS will be. Receiving this letter was particularly important to some Council members who were reluctant to adopt this draft resolution without this information.

It seems that the letter indicated that approximately 2,500 IGAD troops will serve under the UNMISS chain of command. The troops are to provide protection for the IGAD personnel monitoring and verifying the ceasefire agreed to by the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition. They will also be responsible for protecting civilians, a key element of the UNMISS mandate. It is anticipated that the Protection Force will have an Ethiopian force commander, and that it will include Ethiopian troops. Other potential troop contributors may include Kenya and Rwanda, although this is yet to be confirmed.

Negotiations on the UNMISS draft were apparently smooth, although there were some points of dissent. Chile and Lithuania, supported by several members, requested that language be incorporated in the resolution expressing concern about the use of cluster munitions in Jonglei State in February and urging that the parties to the conflict refrain from using them in the future. This concern was prompted by an 8 May UNMISS report entitled “Conflict in South Sudan: A Human Rights Report” which noted that “on 7 February, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) found physical evidence of the use of cluster munitions in the Malek area of Bor county”. The report also noted that both South Sudan and Uganda, which has participated in the conflict on the government’s side, denied using them.

It seems the suggestion to incorporate language on cluster munitions in the resolution caused some problems for some members. One suggestion was for the Council to express concern with the “inappropriate” use of cluster munitions, but some members believed that this qualifying adjective was not constructive. Ultimately, a compromise was found when Council members agreed to express their serious concern with “reports” by UNMAS about the “indiscriminate” use of cluster munitions in Jonglei, while urging the parties not to use them again.

There were also some objections raised by Russia about the humanitarian language in the draft. Before the final draft in blue, prior versions demanded that the parties allow for “full, safe, rapid and unhindered” humanitarian access. It appears that Russia believed that demanding the parties to allow for “rapid” humanitarian access was not in keeping with the current conditions on the ground. As a compromise, in the final version of the resolution, the word “rapid” was removed, while the other adjectives describing humanitarian access were retained.

Russia has expressed the view that not enough information regarding the concept of operations and force generation for UNMISS has been provided by the DPKO. In particular, it seems that Russia has requested greater clarity on how DPKO substantiates the need for the troop ceiling, where in South Sudan the additional troops will be deployed, and what the exit strategy for the mission will be. While it does not appear that these concerns will block adoption, they were expressed both prior to and during the negotiations on the resolution. Apparently these concerns have persisted in spite of an 8 May briefing in consultations by DPKO’s Military Adviser Lieutenant General Ahmed Maqsood designed to address them.

Some Council members appear to believe that DPKO could be providing higher quality information on the operational activities of UNMISS and the environment in which the mission is operating. However, there nonetheless seems to be a sense among a number of members that the Council operates at a strategic level, and that operational and tactical issues are generally the responsibility of DPKO and the mission leadership on the ground.

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