What's In Blue

Posted Wed 7 May 2014

South Sudan Briefing

Tomorrow (8 May) afternoon Council members will receive a briefing in consultations on South Sudan. Briefers include Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Military Adviser Lt. Gen. Ahmed Maqsood from the Office of Military Affairs in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Hilde Johnson will be available (via VTC) to respond to questions. The US may circulate a draft resolution to the Council at the meeting revising the mandate of UNMISS, with the intention of adopting it in the coming weeks.

Maqsood is likely to provide Council members with a concept of force generation for UNMISS, outline the anticipated capacities of the potential new forces, and describe their precise functions. It seems Russia requested a briefing on these issues after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote a letter to the Council in early April indicating that the annual cost of raising the troop and police ceiling to 12,500 and 1,323, respectively, would be $223 million.

In terms of inter-mission cooperation, the mission is in varying stages of deploying three infantry battalions. These include a Rwandan battalion from the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, a Nepalese battalion from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and a Ghanaian battalion from the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire. Maqsood is likely to provide information on the status of these deployments.

UNMISS is also trying to raise an additional two infantry battalions, a matter that will also likely be discussed at the meeting. It appears that China is considering contributing an infantry battalion to the mission. The proposed Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) would also bolster the force capacity of UNMISS, if it serves under the UNMISS umbrella.

Council members are likely to have a number of questions about the mandate of the PDF and its relationship with UNMISS. The PDF is expected to provide protection for IGAD personnel monitoring and verifying the ceasefire, which was signed by South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition on 23 January, but has been ignored by both sides. Some Council members may be interested in what options exist for the PDF to conduct other tasks (including protecting civilians), which IGAD countries are considering contributing troops, and whether the PDF would serve under UNMISS’ chain of command. There may also be interest in what kinds of logistical support and equipment the PDF may need to ensure its sustainability when deployed. While negotiations between the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and IGAD on the PDF are ongoing, several Council members believe that greater clarity on these matters will be required before the Council adopts a new resolution.

Regarding the draft resolution revising UNMISS’ mandate, several Council members expect that the text will be quite succinct and that it is likely to include protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian access, and human rights monitoring as priority areas. There had been some discussion in recent months about UNMISS potentially continuing to perform some state building functions in non-conflict areas of South Sudan. However, most, but not all, Council members are in favour of the mission suspending statebuilding activities. The general inclination in the Council is to focus primarily on a more streamlined mandate that eliminates, or at least significantly downplays, statebuilding tasks, 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 have committed serious human rights violations.

Council members will also likely want to hear Ladsous’ impressions following his trip to South Sudan. Ladsous, as well as Johnson, may have additional information for members on the meetings that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in South Sudan on 6 May, held with President Salva Kiir and other government officials. During a press encounter with Ban, Kiir publicly committed to meet with Riek Machar, the head of the SPLM in Opposition, saying that he would arrive in Addis Ababa for the meeting by 9 May. Ban later spoke by phone with Machar, who said that he would come to Addis Ababa for the talks as well. This is an encouraging sign, as Council members are well aware that the crisis requires a political solution.

On a related note, Council members may be interested in Ladsous’ and Johnson’s interpretations of the agreement the parties signed on 5 May in which they committed to “consider one month of tranquility from 7 May to 7 June 2014 in order to preposition humanitarian supplies and enable the people of South Sudan to plant their food crops, care for their livestock, and move to areas of safety.” The humanitarian situation, which is already dire, is likely to deteriorate further if this is not carried out. The conflict has displaced over 1.2 million people, and aid agencies have noted that famine is a possibility in the coming months unless something is done to avert it.

Council members may ask Johnson to provide an analysis of the situation on the ground. In particular, they may be interested in an update on the mission’s ongoing efforts to protect civilians and assist with humanitarian access, the status of the conflict, and the human rights situation. The mission is stretched to capacity in its efforts to provide security for the more than 78,000 people being protected in UN facilities. Members may look to Johnson for information on how the mission is coping and for suggestions on how its capacity can be enhanced. There may also be some interest in getting Johnson’s input on developments in the relationship between the mission and the government of South Sudan, as South Sudan has been accused of numerous Status of Forces Agreement violations and there has also been strong anti-UNMISS rhetoric from high-level government officials in recent months.

Many Council members have been increasingly alarmed at the human rights situation in South Sudan. Most recently, this concern was reflected in their statements during the 2 May public briefing by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng. The release of the UNMISS human rights report is expected imminently, perhaps before the end of this week. While the report might not be available to Council members before the meeting, human rights concerns are likely to be an important topic of discussion.

Another matter that may be discussed tomorrow is the issue of accountability. Several Council members have publicly advocated for the idea of targeted sanctions against those who obstruct the peace process and commit human rights atrocities in South Sudan. Yesterday, the US announced that it was imposing targeted sanctions against Peter Gadet, who is part of the opposition, and Marial Chanuong, who heads Kiir’s presidential guard. In terms of possible action by the Council in this area, it appears that some consideration is being given by the US and other Council members to a second draft resolution that would call for targeted sanctions. However, Russia, which is a veto-wielding permanent member, is wary of imposing sanctions in South Sudan.

The Council is going through a period of intense engagement on South Sudan. In addition to the 2 May public briefing by Pillay and Dieng, Council members were briefed in consultations on South Sudan on 10 April and 23 April. South Sudan was also on the agenda of the Secretary-General’s monthly luncheon earlier today.

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