What's In Blue

South Sudan: UNMISS and Sanctions Briefings and Draft Sanctions Resolution

On Tuesday (25 August), the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and on the work of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee. Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien are expected to brief on UNMISS, while Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile), chair of the Sanctions Committee, will brief on the Committee’s work. Council members have begun negotiations on a draft resolution on South Sudan sanctions which, if adopted, will have implications both for UNMISS and the South Sudan Sanctions Committee. The draft resolution, circulated on 19 August by the US, the penholder on South Sudan, imposes an arms embargo on South Sudan and places targeted sanctions (asset freezes and travel bans) on additional individuals if the government does not sign the IGAD mediated compromise peace agreement by 1 September.

Council Meetings
Council members are likely to have questions for the briefers regarding the impact of the adoption of this resolution on UNMISS’ mandate and the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee. Members might be interested in hearing Ladsous’ views on how the implementation of an arms embargo will affect the mission’s mandate and activities. Assuming that the peace agreement is ultimately signed by the government, members may be interested in what role the mission might be asked to play in supporting transitional security arrangements outlined in the agreement, and how that would affect the mandate and tasks of UNMISS. In addition, Ladsous is expected to give an update of the mission’s activities, in the midst of a deteriorating security environment.

O’Brien, who visited the country from 22 to 25 July, is expected to discuss the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. The misery experienced by civilians in the current conflict has been well-documented. At present, there are roughly 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country, as well as more than 619,000 refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. Approximately 200,000 IDPs are now protected in six UNMISS bases (i.e. Protection of Civilians sites) across South Sudan. Severe food insecurity confronts 4.6 million of South Sudan’s approximately 12 million people. What is less well known—and a point O’Brien may choose to emphasise— is the plight of humanitarian workers in South Sudan; before he left Juba at the conclusion of his trip in July, he expressed concern that “aid workers are being harassed… [and]…targeted” and that 27 of them had lost their lives during the conflict, which started in December 2013. Some members may also raise the issue of protection of journalists following South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s statement to journalists on 16 August, that “If anybody…does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time. …Freedom of the press does not mean you work against the country”. On 19 August, Peter Moi, a journalist for South Sudan’s Corporate Weekly, was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in Juba. He was the seventh journalist to be killed in South Sudan this year.

Barros will brief members on the interim report of the Panel of Experts of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee. He may note the concern of countries in the region about the spill-over effects of the conflict, reiterating a point made by a member of the Panel at the Committee meeting on 20 August. In its interim report, the Panel recommended that the Council consider imposing targeted sanctions on key decision-makers in South Sudan and implementing an arms embargo on the country. How imposing targeted measures on additional individuals and placing an arms embargo on South Sudan will affect the work of the Committee and its Panel of Experts will be an important part of the discussion.

The Draft Resolution
The draft resolution was circulated during a briefing under “any other business” on 19 August by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, on his assessment of the peace talks in Addis Ababa, from which he had recently returned. Council members held a first round of discussions on the draft after Eliasson’s briefing and a second round on Friday (21 August). It seems that the US sees the draft resolution as a way of putting pressure on Kiir to sign the agreement and that it had advocated for adoption of the draft resolution as early as Friday (21 August). However, African Council members are not comfortable with language suggesting that effective 6 September an asset freeze and travel ban would be automatically imposed on certain individuals, including senior political leaders of the government if it does not sign the agreement by 1 September. It seems African members are against this automaticity and prefer that if the government fails to sign the agreement by 1 September, potential designations be considered by the Sanctions Committee. (Decisions at the Committee level are taken by consensus of all 15 Council members.)

Another issue for many members was that the initial draft did not include the names of the potential designated individuals. It seems that during the second round of negotiations on Friday, members were working with a draft that referred to designated individuals in annexes that had not yet been made available to Council members. At press time, the annexes had yet to be circulated. Other issues that have featured in the negotiations relate to whether an arms embargo should be imposed even if the government signs the agreement and whether there should be a reference to the possibility of referring the situation in South Sudan to the ICC if insufficient progress is made on accountability issues. It seems that a revised draft circulated over the weekend still falls short of addressing many of the concerns raised and at press time further negotiations were expected this week.

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