South Sudan Presidential Statement Sends Message Ahead of Council Mission
The Security Council is expected to issue a presidential statement today (8 August) on the political, security and humanitarian crisis gripping South Sudan. It appears the statement is designed to send a strong message of concern to the government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition in advance of the Council’s upcoming visiting mission to the country. At the press stakeout following a briefing on South Sudan on 6 August, Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant (UK) indicated that Council members would be “engaging with both leaders”-i.e. President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar-during the trip.
On 6 August, the Council held a briefing, followed by consultations, on South Sudan (S/PV.7235). During the briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet gave an alarming assessment of the situation in South Sudan, stating that the country was on the verge of a “humanitarian catastrophe” as fighting has continued. In the ensuing consultations, he added that the talks in Addis Ababa, which just recommenced on 4 August, were on the brink of collapse.
During the consultations, the US, the penholder on South Sudan, said that it would circulate two draft products for consideration following the meeting. One was a draft press statement expressing outrage at attacks that led to the deaths of at least six humanitarian aid workers in Maban County, Upper Nile state, which was issued on 6 August (SC/11512). The other is the draft presidential statement that will be adopted today.
There was broad consensus regarding the main elements of the draft text of the presidential statement, although some minor changes were made based on comments submitted to the penholder electronically, resulting in a slight revision of the language on potential sanctions. The widespread frustration and concern in the Council over the political, security and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan likely allowed for easier consensus on the text. The cessation of hostilities agreements of 23 January, 9 May and 10 June have all been breached. Efforts toward negotiating a transitional government of national unity within 60 days, as agreed on 10 June, do not seem to have made any progress. And more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries, with aid agencies warning of a possible famine. Indeed, John Ging, the Director of the Operational Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on 23 July that the humanitarian situation is South Sudan is “very desperate…and something that is on a trajectory to develop into a wholesale catastrophe.” In the statement, the Council expresses grave alarm and concern with the political, security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan. The statement strongly condemns repeated violations of the ceasefire, as well as violations of humanitarian law and human rights and emphasises the importance of holding accountable those who commit such violations. It also calls on the government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition to honour their commitment to form a transitional government of national unity by 10 August. It further emphasises the Council’s grave concern with food insecurity in South Sudan, noting that the country may be on the verge of famine, and calls for unfettered humanitarian access. These are all likely key messages that will be reinforced during the Council’s visiting mission.
The statement expresses the Council’s preparedness to consider targeted sanctions against those that violate the peace process, giving voice to an issue that has been discussed frequently in Council meetings on South Sudan. This final language is slightly weaker than what existed in the original draft, which would have had the Council expressing its preparedness to “pursue” rather than “consider” such measures, apparently a change requested by the Russian delegation. It seems that implementing targeted measures is a course of action supported by several Council members, although a number of them would prefer if the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) did so first before the Council. If the Council meets with IGAD representatives during their upcoming visiting mission to Africa, they may use the opportunity to have a focused discussion on this issue.
The presidential statement will set the stage for the South Sudan leg of the Council’s visiting mission to Europe and Africa, although it does not directly reference the trip. It nonetheless sends a clear signal regarding the concrete steps the Council would like the parties to take, while expressing deep concern about the crisis engulfing the country and hinting at stronger measures if things do not improve.