What's In Blue

Posted Wed 13 May 2015

Briefing and Consultations on South Sudan: UN Mission and Sanctions Committee

Tomorrow afternoon (14 May), the Council is scheduled to have a briefing followed by consultations on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the work of the 2206 Sanctions Committee on South Sudan. Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj is likely to brief on UNMISS, while Ambassador Cristián Barros of Chile, who chairs the sanctions committee, will brief on its work.

Løj’s briefing takes place against the backdrop of a deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan and a peace process in Addis Ababa that has reached a stalemate. Recent fighting in Unity and Upper Nile states has led to significant increases in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in UNMISS’s “protection of civilians” sites (POC sites) in Bentiu (Unity) and Malakal (Upper Nile). Currently there are approximately 119,000 displaced persons living in POC sites across South Sudan.

Løj is likely to discuss how the mission is coping with the high numbers of civilians in these sites. Providing safety and security in these sites has placed significant demands on the mission’s resources. As the Secretary-General noted in his recent UNMISS report, “inter-communal tensions, community leadership struggles, youth gang violence and threats against humanitarian service providers and UNMISS staff” are among the difficulties the mission has faced in these sites. One recent incident that is likely to be raised is the fighting that started in the Juba POC site on 8 May as a domestic dispute but deteriorated into larger scale violence over the next couple of days. One person was killed and approximately 60 wounded in the clashes, and an estimated 3,500 IDPs fled from the POC site. Members may be interested in learning about efforts that the mission may have undertaken to ensure the safety of those who fled the site.

Given that the overwhelming majority of IDPs in South Sudan are not sheltered in the POC sites, Løj may address what UNMISS has done to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access in areas not near the sites. Members might appreciate an assessment of how effective patrolling has been in such areas, what kind of impact humanitarian actors have had in providing assistance, and how the protection of civilians and humanitarian outreach could be improved in these places.

She may stress the importance of supporting South Sudan’s 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan, which was only 19% funded as of 30 April. The humanitarian needs are enormous, with over 1.5 million people internally displaced (in addition to the more than 500,000 people who have fled to neighbouring countries), and 2.5 million people facing severe food insecurity.

Another matter of concern that may be discussed is what can be done to mitigate the violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). According to the Secretary-General’s 28 April UNMISS report, these have mainly been restrictions on the movement of mission personnel, although there have also been “threats to UNMISS members and premises, harassment, assault, arrest and detention of UNMISS members, and confiscation of UNMISS property including impoundment of vehicles.” The Council has consistently condemned violations of the SOFA in its outcomes on South Sudan.

The future direction of the mediation may be raised tomorrow in the consultations. With ongoing fighting, some members may discuss the potential for the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-plus group to reinvigorate the peace process. The consultations could provide a useful forum for such a discussion since the UN and several Council members—Chad, China, Nigeria, the UK, and the US—are part of this expanded configuration of actors supporting IGAD.

Tomorrow’s briefing takes place ahead of the impending renewal of the mandate of UNMISS, which expires on 30 May. According to the monthly programme of work, the Council is scheduled to adopt an UNMISS resolution on 26 May. Although an initial draft has yet to be circulated to members, early indications are that the US, the penholder on South Sudan, will seek to maintain the current mandate without major changes for an additional six months, in keeping with the recommendation made by the Secretary-General in his recent UNMISS report.

During the consultations, Løj may provide her views on whether there needs to be additional language in the resolution to enable UNMISS to provide human rights training for South Sudan’s police service. Operative paragraph 4 of the current UNMISS resolution (resolution 2187 of 25 November 2014) already calls for “specific operational coordination with the police services in relevant and protection-focused tasks” in the context of fostering “a secure environment for the eventual safe and voluntary return” of IDPs and refugees. Council members have generally been opposed to assisting in capacity-building of state institutions since the start of the civil war, given the involvement of the state’s security forces in committing atrocities. This was a major reason why state-building tasks were removed from the UNMISS mandate with the adoption of resolution 2155 in May 2014. However, it is possible that there may be an appetite among members to consider language in the upcoming mandate renewal that would give the mission the flexibility to provide human rights training for the police.

South Sudan Sanctions Committee
This will be Barros’ first briefing to the Council since the sanctions committee was established with the adoption of resolution 2206 on 3 March. In his report, he is expected to note that the committee has adopted its guidelines and that the Panel of Experts has been formed. He is expected to recount meetings that the committee held with representatives of INTERPOL and the UN Mine Action Service on 28 April, and with Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and Special Representative on Sexual Violence Zainab Bangura on 8 May. Apparently these meetings were useful information-gathering sessions that provided members with ideas on how these actors could collaborate with the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s panel of experts.

A key issue moving forward will be whether the members of the Sanctions Committee will have an appetite to begin designating individuals and entities for targeted measures (i.e.: assets freezes or travel bans). The Council decided not to make designations when it adopted resolution 2206, and although the resolution was adopted unanimously, during the negotiations, Russia and Venezuela expressed their reluctance over using targeted sanctions in South Sudan. While there have been divisions in IGAD over pursuing targeted measures in South Sudan, the Chairperson of the AU issued a press release yesterday stating the importance of working towards “the effective implementation of sanctions…in line with the UN Security Council resolution of 3 March 2015.” It is uncertain whether this statement might provide momentum towards designating individuals and entities in South Sudan that meet the criteria in resolution 2206.

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