South Sudan Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (6 August), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet expected to brief. As the Council is expected to visit South Sudan in its forthcoming visiting mission to Europe and Africa, Council members might take this opportunity to refine the messages they would like to convey to the stakeholders—the government, the opposition, civil society, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators and UNMISS—during the upcoming visit.
The challenging security situation in South Sudan is likely to be discussed. Ceasefire agreements signed by the parties on 23 January, 9 May and 10 June have been violated. The most recent agreement was clearly breached on 20 July when the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition forces and the White Army, a Nuer militia, attacked government positions in Nasir, Upper Nile state. Fighting for control over Nasir ensued until 24 July, when SPLM in Opposition troops retreated. In addition to this recent outbreak of violence, Council members have been alarmed by reports received in recent weeks during Council consultations that the parties have been regrouping and rearming in the midst of the current rainy season, which makes movement difficult and is thus not conducive to extensive military operations.
An area of interest to many Council members that Mulet is also likely to cover is UNMISS’s efforts to fulfill its core mandate to protect civilians. He may highlight how the mission continues to provide safety and security in and around UNMISS facilities sheltering civilians (called “protection of civilians sites” by the UN). Council members may ask about progress in building additional infrastructure to protect civilians, as a result of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in some of the sites, which were not meant to accommodate so many people. (Nearly 100,000 people are currently inside the “protection of civilians sites.”) There may also be interest from some members in the mission’s capacity to carry out patrols in high-risk areas as more troops and police are deployed.
Another important element of the UNMISS mandate that is likely to be discussed tomorrow is the mission’s efforts to facilitate humanitarian access. In particular, Mulet might provide insights on coordination among UNMISS, the UN Country Team and other humanitarian actors in serving the people of South Sudan. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is grim, as 1.1 million people have been internally displaced, more than 405,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, and aid agencies are warning of a looming famine. There is widespread recognition on the Council of the severity of the humanitarian crisis, which continues to deteriorate as efforts to attain a political solution to the crisis have stalled. Visiting the country will provide members with a first-hand view of the severity of the crisis, perhaps sparking ideas on how the Council can play a more active role in alleviating this crisis.
Another issue that may be raised is restrictions on the movement of UNMISS staff and the violence and harassment they have faced by parties to the conflict. This has hindered the ability of the mission to fulfill its mandate to its full capacity. The recent Secretary-General’s report (S/2014/537) indicates that there have been 101 violations of the status of forces agreement between the end of May and the end of July. Arrests, assaults, threats of violence, and obstruction of the movement of local UNMISS personnel because of their ethnicity are among the transgressions enumerated. Council members may be interested in more details about which areas of the mandate have been difficult to fulfill as a result of this.
Council members may inquire about the deployment schedule for additional peacekeepers. Resolution 2155 of 27 May authorised a troop ceiling of 12,500 and a police ceiling of 1,323. According to the recent Secretary-General’s report , 9,395 troops and 1003 police had been deployed as of 18 July. Plans for additional deployments to meet the troop and police ceilings are outlined in the report, but Mulet may share additional details about new developments regarding the deployments since 18 July.
Council members may also want some elaboration on efforts by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to address some of the most vital needs of the mission described in the Secretary-General’s report. For example, the report states that in-kind support for military engineering and more formed police units (consisting of approximately 140 police per unit), including female units, are required. Members may inquire precisely what type of in-kind engineering contributions are needed, what role the new formed police units would play, which member states DPKO has approached to address these needs and whether any tentative agreements have been reached with them.
The human rights situation in South Sudan is another significant concern of several Council members. In this respect, some members might inquire about developments since the release of UNMISS’s 8 May human rights report, which concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law had been committed by both parties and that crimes against humanity had occurred.
While Mulet is likely to focus his remarks on the issues related to UNMISS’s activities, the status of its surge deployment of peacekeepers and the situation in South Sudan, Council members may also be keen to receive any information Mulet may be able to offer on the peace talks in Addis Ababa, including the agenda for the current round of talks, what has transpired in the negotiations over the past couple of days, and what the current challenges are in the discussions. The negotiations, which were suspended on 23 June, recommenced on 4 August.
Previous negotiating rounds have made little progress, as the government and the SPLM in Opposition have disagreed about the role civil society should play in the talks and expressed anger toward IGAD for statements critical of them. On 10 June, Kiir and Machar agreed to finalise negotiations on the creation of a transitional government of national unity within 60 days. However, it appears unlikely that this will occur within the allotted timeframe, with Kiir already stating that he should lead the country during any transitional period.
The notion of targeted sanctions against those that obstruct the peace process and commit serious human rights violations in South Sudan has been discussed at length in Council meetings. It may be reiterated by some members as a viable option for the Council at tomorrow’s consultations. However, it appears that some Council members would prefer to have IGAD impose such measures first before the Council follows suit. The difficulty is that it seems that there are some divisions within IGAD on this issue, perhaps given that some of its member states have strong political and economic ties to South Sudan. Furthermore, China and Russia have also expressed reservations about targeted measures, and it remains unclear how they might respond in the Council, even if IGAD were to take the first step regarding targeted measures. The upcoming Council visiting mission may provide an opportunity for Council members to meet with IGAD officials and hear their views on targeted measures, and more broadly, how IGAD and the Security Council can work together most effectively to exert leverage on the parties to achieve a political resolution to the current conflict.