Presidential Statement on the Signing of the Peace Agreement in South Sudan
This afternoon (28 August), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a presidential statement welcoming South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir’s signature of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. The draft presidential statement was circulated on 26 August, and following amendments by a few members, was put under silence until this morning. Although Russia broke silence twice today, it seems that the draft is now is ready for adoption later today.
The draft presidential statement follows a week of increasing pressure by the Council on the government of South Sudan. On 19 August, the US circulated a draft resolution that, if the government had failed to sign the agreement before 1 September, would have imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and targeted sanctions (assets freeze and travel ban) on several senior political leaders. Council members have been particularly focused on South Sudan since Kiir’s refusal to sign the IGAD-mediated agreement on 17 August, when he requested an additional 15 days for internal consultations. (Riek Machar on behalf of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, as well as Pagan Amum, a representative for the former political detainees, joined by other stakeholders, had signed on 17 August.) Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefed Council members during “any other business” on 19 August. Eliasson, who had been in Addis Ababa during the recent South Sudan negotiations, stated that the international community needed to apply strong diplomatic pressure on Kiir to sign the agreement.
On 25 August, Kiir announced that he would sign the agreement at a ceremony in Juba. That same day, the Council was briefed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS Ellen Margrethe Løj by video-teleconference, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien and Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile), as chair of the 2206 Sanctions Committee. In press elements issued after the meeting, Council members stated their preparedness to act immediately if Kiir did not sign on 26 August.
The draft presidential statement welcomes the signature of the agreement by all parties. It refers to the full implementation of the agreement, “as contained exclusively in the annex to S/2015/654 in full and without exception”. Some Council members had expressed concern in South Sudan consultations on 25 August about the possibility of Kiir signing the agreement with reservations, and a document produced by the government of South Sudan identifies several reservations to the agreement, including to provisions regarding the demilitarisation of Juba, the mechanisms to monitor the ceasefire and other security arrangements. It seems some Council members were opposed to referring to the need to implement the agreement “in full and without exception” in the first draft. In the end, a reference to this remained in the draft.
The need to ensure accountability for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law is an ongoing issue in Council discussions on South Sudan, and language on this proved difficult to agree upon. The divisions seem to reflect differing positions about the impact of accountability measures on the implementation of the agreement: whether they would reinforce or undermine it. As a result, language on the release of the final report of the AU Commission of Inquiry was softened to “encourages the public release of the final report” as soon as possible, rather than urging the swift release of its findings and recommendations.
It seems that Russia broke silence because it was uncomfortable with accountability mechanisms that the parties had not agreed on. As a result a reference to the establishment of a credible and effective mechanism to seek accountability in South Sudan was dropped. (A reference to a potential referral of the situation in South Sudan to the ICC was contentious during the negotiations of the previous draft resolution, given the opposition of some Council members, and was not attempted in the draft presidential statement.)
Regarding sanctions, the draft expresses the Council’s readiness to consider appropriate measures to ensure full implementation of the agreement, “including through the imposition of an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions”. It takes note of a press statement of the AU PSC warning that all those undermining the lasting resolution of the conflict, including implementation of the agreement, would be held accountable for their actions. (During the negotiations of the draft resolution some Council members had proposed that an arms embargo should be imposed even if the government signed the agreement, but other Council members opposed this, given the positive development of the recent signing of the agreement.)
The draft presidential statement states the Council’s intention to move swiftly to update the mandate of UNMISS. It seems that the UNMISS mandate will be renewed sooner than its expected expiry on 30 November, and expanded so that the mission can focus on providing support for immediate tasks leading to a transitional government of national unity to be established in 90 days as per the agreement, as well as supporting planning for security arrangements. The Secretary-General is then expected to fully assess the need for a new mandate for the mission. (This follows a two-stage mandating process as recently recommended by the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.)