What's In Blue

Posted Thu 3 Sep 2015

South Sudan: Briefing on Developments since Peace Agreement

Tomorrow (4 September), Council members expect to receive a briefing in consultations via video teleconference from Juba on the situation in South Sudan from Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Ellen Margrethe Løj. The meeting, requested today by the US, the penholder on South Sudan, is intended to provide members with an update on developments in South Sudan following the signing of the “Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan” by President Salva Kiir, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Opposition Riek Machar, and the representative of the former detainees, Pagan Amum.

Council members may be interested in an assessment of the parties’ level of commitment to the agreement. Violations of the agreement have been reported in recent days, including most notably fighting in Upper Nile state. The briefing is expected to give Council members a sense of the extent of the fighting, how much of it is related to command and control problems, and whether there might be other conflict dynamics at play. According to media reports, the military wing of a group of defectors from the SPLA in Opposition, the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF), attacked government targets in Upper Nile and Jonglei states earlier this week; the SSAF has claimed that it will take up arms against both Kiir and Machar. (The dissident SPLA in Opposition generals issued a press release on 10 August rejecting the then-proposed Addis Ababa agreement because it envisioned Kiir and Machar leading during the transitional period.) Possible fragmentation on the government side is also a concern, as it appears that Kiir was under significant pressure from some on his side to reject the deal. An important issue moving forward that could be discussed in today’s meeting is the capacity of splinter groups to hinder implementation of the peace agreement.

Council members will be keen to learn more about the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements workshop, which is currently planned for 5-8 September. The workshop includes the parties and, according to the peace agreement, will be “convened by the Mediation” (i.e., the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD] Plus). Council members may be interested in whether UNMISS will have a seat at the table, and what role it might play in the workshop. Among other issues, the workshop is designed to address issues such as the establishment of demilitarised zones, cantonment areas, and other transitional security arrangements. The results of this workshop could have important implications for how the Council decides to revise the mandate of UNMISS. (In its president statement of 28 August, the Council confirmed “its intention to move swiftly to update the mandate…to support implementation of key tasks in the Agreement” [S/PRST/2015/16]).

It appears 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 the establishment of a transitional government of national unity 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 recommended by the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.) Adding more tasks to the mandate could prove challenging, unless resources and staffing are enhanced, as it seems that UNMISS is already stretched to capacity. Tomorrow’s meeting might provide an opportunity for Council members to have a further discussion on what is needed.

At the same time, given the troubling developments on the ground, the Council may consider additional coercive measures in the hope that this could leverage greater adherence to the agreement and to peace in South Sudan. The draft resolution that was being negotiated by the Council in late August proposed an arms embargo and additional designations for targeted sanctions if Kiir failed to sign the agreement by 1 September. While this resolution was not adopted, some elements from it could be revisited, either through a resolution, or through designations in the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, if the fighting continues.

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