South Sudan Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow ( 24 February), the Council is expected to hold a briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which will be followed by consultations. Briefers will include Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović, while Ambassador Francis Deng of South Sudan may make a statement in the public session. Ladsous will likely highlight the main findings of the Secretary-General’s recent UNMISS report (S/2015/118), while Šimonović will discuss his visit to South Sudan in early February as well as possible options for accountability for human rights violations in the country.
UNMISS’s efforts to protect civilians are likely to feature prominently in Ladsous’ briefing, and members will be interested in an overview of the strategies the mission is pursuing to fulfil this key element of its mandate. Ladsous is expected to report on what the mission is doing to ensure the safety of the approximately 112,900 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in UNMISS “protection of civilians” sites around the country. He may also describe patrolling and community engagement that the mission is conducting outside its bases in an effort to fulfill its protection responsibilities. In this sense, some members may be interested in an assessment of how effective UNMISS has been in protecting civilians beyond its bases.
The deplorable humanitarian situation in South Sudan will also probably be a key aspect of the discussion. There are roughly 1.5 million IDPs in South Sudan (including those in the UNMISS sites), while nearly 500,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries since the start of the conflict. The Secretary-General’s report notes that “From January to March 2015, some 2.5 million are likely to face severe food insecurity.” There may be interest from Council members in hearing what activities the UN system and its humanitarian partners are undertaking to address this food crisis, and what else can be done to respond to this challenge. On a related note, Ladsous may mention restrictions to humanitarian access that the government and the opposition have imposed on humanitarian actors.
It is probable that Ladsous will provide some details on the deployment of peacekeepers for UNMISS. According to the Secretary-General’s report, as of 3 February, 10,470 troops were deployed, well below the authourised strength of 12,500 military personnel, while 1,036 of an authourised 1,323 police were serving in the mission. Council members might be looking for an update on ongoing and upcoming schedules for the arrival of peacekeepers to the mission.
Ladsous may also touch upon the IGAD peace process and the recent commitment of the parties to finalise an agreement by 5 March. Given reports of widespread abuses by all sides during the conflict, Ladsous may signal the importance of accountability as a key factor in achieving sustainable peace in South Sudan. This is in keeping with the positions of several Council members, who have also emphasised the importance of accountability since the early days of the current conflict.
Šimonović is likely to talk about his recent trip to Ethiopia and South Sudan, which included time in Addis Ababa, Juba, Malakal and Bentiu. He may give an overview of his discussions with IDPs at the UNMISS protection of civilians sites, as well as a read out of his meetings with President Salva Kiir in Juba and opposition leader Riek Machar in Addis Ababa.
Another topic that Šimonović is likely to bring up, probably in more detail than Ladsous, are the options for accountability in South Sudan. The Secretary-General’s report states that national actors in South Sudan seem to have taken “no major accountability measures” while noting that the Secretariat is developing “possible options for the establishment of criminal accountability and transitional justice processes for South Sudan.” Šimonović may reiterate his hope that the AU Commission of Inquiry investigating human rights abuses in South Sudan makes public its final report, and discuss his interactions with AU officials on the report during his trip to Addis. (Olusegun Obasanjo, chair of the Commission, was expected to present the report to the AU Peace and Security Council [PSC] at the heads of state and government summit on 30 January in Addis Ababa, but the PSC decided that discussion and publication of the report should be postponed to give the IGAD-mediated peace process more time to bear fruit.)
A related matter that Šimonović may raise is UNMISS’s investigations into allegations that large-scale human rights have been committed in South Sudan. This would likely be discussed in the consultations, given the sensitive nature of the issue.