What's In Blue

Posted Thu 8 Oct 2015

Council to Vote on Draft Resolution on South Sudan

This morning (9 October) the Council will vote on a draft resolution* adjusting the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to support implementation of the “Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan” signed in August by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM in Opposition) leader Riek Machar, and Pagan Amum. the representative of the former detainees.

The draft was circulated to Council members on 20 September. After an initial read-through on 21 September, one round of negotiations was held on 22 September. Since then, the US, the penholder on South Sudan, has held intensive bilateral consultations with members in an attempt to reach compromise on a number of divisive issues.

After two broken silence periods and several revisions to the initial text, the US put the draft into blue yesterday afternoon and asked for it to be put to a vote this morning. Given that there are still unresolved contentious points, it is unclear how members will vote on the resolution. One delegation noted the wide scope of the draft resolution and said that it would have preferred the draft resolution not to include issues unrelated to its main purpose, which is to support implementation of the peace agreement. It appears that there was widespread agreement on several issues related to the mission’s support for the implementation of the peace agreement; most of the differences of perspective were related to other matters.

Regarding the draft in blue, key differences remain on issues pertaining to sanctions, accountability, the protection of civilians, and the use of unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A number of countries – Chile, France, Lithuania, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK—supported the US decision to incorporate the threat of sanctions in the draft text. However, Russia and Venezuela expressed their disapproval with the language on sanctions, as they believed it was inappropriate to include this in a draft resolution intended to revise the mandate of UNMISS. Venezuela expressed concern that the threat of sanctions could undermine the implementation of the peace agreement. Angola wanted the language on sanctions to be less pronounced, and the US removed reference to the 22 May AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) press statement calling for urgent steps to make targeted sanctions designations under Security Council resolution 2206. However, it seems that most of the language threatening sanctions against spoilers has remained in the draft text in blue.

Regarding accountability issues, there was considerable disagreement on the language related to the Hybrid Court for South Sudan called for in the peace agreement. Angola, Russia and Venezuela argued that under the peace agreement, issues pertaining to the hybrid court are the sole responsibility of the AU. Consequently, Russia complained that the Council should not play a role in assessing efforts to establish the court, as proposed in the draft resolution. Russia further objected to language indicating that the court will be established in keeping with “international standards,” as it maintains that this reference lacks clarity. A paragraph on the hybrid court was slightly modified to include language inviting the AU to share information with the Secretary-General on issues related to Chapter V of the peace agreement (i.e., on transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing). Nonetheless, it seems that the text in blue does not address the core concerns of Angola, Russia and Venezuela on this matter.

On the protection of civilians, several member states were keen to retain language indicating that the mission will protect civilians under threat of physical violence. One Council member wanted the draft text to state that the mission would protect civilians under “imminent” threat of violence. The US did not incorporate this change in the final text, as it, along with others, saw this as possibly weakening the protection mandate of the mission.

Another highly contentious issue is the draft resolution’s inclusion of language requesting the deployment of UAVs. It seems that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) believes that the use of these vehicles would enhance the ability of UNMISS to monitor the assembly and cantonment of the parties’ forces and to provide early warning for the protection of civilians. A number of Council members were supportive during the negotiations of the use of UAVs in South Sudan. However, Council members like Russia and Venezuela have reservations about their use in South Sudan, in part because of the government’s objections.

If adopted, the draft resolution will renew the mandate of UNMISS until 15 December. It requests the Secretary-General to review the mandate within 45 days of the resolution’s adoption, and provide “an assessment and recommendations, including resource requirements, for necessary civilian and force structure capabilities for UNMISS deployment and requirements in the context of implementation of the Agreement and to fulfill the mandate.” This is expected to feed into a resolution making longer-term alterations to the UNMISS mandate, in keeping with a two-step process recommended in the High-Level Implementation Panel on Peace Operations report in June 2015.

The resolution adds some rather technical elements to the mission’s mandate in an effort to support the implementation of the peace agreement.

First, UNMISS will support the planning and establishment of agreed transitional security arrangements. This includes the establishment and operation of a Joint Operations Centre, which was described in the peace agreement as playing a role in the “avoidance of conflict between the activities conducted by the security forces permitted to remain in Juba” during the transitional period. The JOC will include representatives of the national security forces and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism, which will monitor compliance with the agreement.

Second, upon the request of the parties to the agreement, the mission will support the work of a National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), and the integration of the agreement into South Sudan’s transitional constitution. The NCAC will, according to the peace agreement, “complete the tasks necessary to prepare for the Transition Period and form the TGoNU [transitional government of national unity]” and “draft new or revise, as appropriate, other legislations provided in” the agreement.

Third, UNMISS will assist the parties with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration activities, as well as with security sector reform.

Fourth, it will participate in and support the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism. In particular, UNMISS will help this mechanism with monitoring the separation, assembly and cantonment of forces.

Fifth, UNMISS will monitor and report on the withdrawal of all state and non-state security actors in South Sudan, with the exception of those in Western Equatoria State based on agreements made prior to the onset of the civil war in December 2013. This is primarily a reference to the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF), although UPDF forces in Western Equatoria as part of a multi-national task force to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army will be permitted to remain.

Sixth, UNMISS will actively participate in the work of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC). The JMEC—consisting of representatives of the parties to the agreement and other Sudanese stakeholders, countries in the region, China, the Troika countries (Norway, the UK and the US), the UN, the AU, the EU, and the IGAD Partners Forum (donors to IGAD)—is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the agreement’s implementation and the transitional government’s mandate and tasks.

*Post-Script: The resolution was adopted as S/RES/2241 on 9 October with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (Russia and Venezuela).