What's In Blue

Posted Tue 1 Dec 2015

South Sudan Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (2 December), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, followed by consultations. Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, is also expected to participate.

The meeting comes as the South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the SPLM/A in Opposition have made limited progress in fulfilling their commitments to the peace agreement signed in August, and shortly after the receipt by Council members of three documents that will help to inform tomorrow’s discussion and the negotiations on the UNMISS mandate in the coming days. The three documents are: the Secretary-General’s report assessing the mission’s mandate, which inter alia recommends future support for the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) and the Joint Integrated Police (JIP); his letter containing an assessment of the UN’s role in providing support for security planning in Juba; and his report on UNMISS’s activities and developments in South Sudan from 20 August to 9 November.

Tomorrow’s briefing is expected to provide an overview of the status of the implementation of the peace deal signed in August. Council members have been encouraged by the signing of the agreement and the initial steps to implement it, including the 3 November agreement on transitional security arrangements for Juba and other key towns. However, there are strong and growing concerns among a number of members that the transitional government of national unity that was supposed to be created within 30 days of the signing of the peace deal in August has yet to be established, that violations of the ceasefire have continued, and that the parties have inhibited the operations of UNMISS in recent months. It may be underscored as well—both during the briefing and in members’ interventions during consultations—that the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate amidst the ongoing violence and delays in implementing key elements of the peace deal, with over 2.3 million people either internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries, and roughly 3.9 million South Sudanese facing severe food insecurity.

Given these concerns, during the consultations some members will probably emphasise the importance of exerting leverage on the parties to honour their commitments to the peace deal and to the ceasefire. The threat of sanctions may be reiterated as a possible tool to induce the parties to comply with the peace deal, although the Council has been divided on this issue in the past. While some members continue to support sanctions as a potential tool for putting pressure on the parties in South Sudan, during the 4 November consultations Angola, Russia and Venezuela reportedly noted that such measures could be counterproductive in the current circumstances and might undermine the initial progress made.

One potentially effective tool highlighted in the Secretary-General’s assessment report is the “good offices” role of Special Representative Løj. The Secretary-General’s assessment report argues that Løj’s participation in the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which is designed to monitor and oversee implementation of the peace agreement, could be an important good offices instrument. Some members may emphasise the ongoing need for a political solution to the conflict and ask Løj about her plans for engaging through the JMEC. It is possible that some may highlight the importance of continued engagement from the Council, the AU, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, and other key actors, to ensure that implementation of the peace deal does not continue to falter.

The Secretariat’s proposals for the UNMISS mandate is likely to be an important focus of the briefing and consultations. One topic to be discussed is the request by the Secretariat for an additional 600 police and 500 troops to augment the mission’s force structure. The Secretariat’s assessment calls for an additional 500 police to be deployed to Juba, Malakal and Bentiu to inter alia regulate access to UNMISS protection of civilians (POC) sites, to counter crime, to maintain public order during distributions of humanitarian aid, and to protect UN and humanitarian actors. Furthermore, 100 additional police are recommended to train the SSNP and the JIP in human rights and community policing. Finally, an additional 500 troops are requested to enhance force protection and logistical support for the envisioned increase in the number of ceasefire monitoring and verification teams.

Members will be interested in the plans to generate these additional personnel and how quickly they can be deployed, if the Council were to authorise their deployment. While the UK government announced in late September that it would contribute 250 to 300 peacekeepers to the effort in South Sudan, force generation has been a challenge for UNMISS since the outbreak of the civil war in South Sudan in December 2013. An additional factor is how effective additional peacekeepers would be if there are ongoing access restrictions and Status of Forces Agreement violations, highlighting the need for the parties to implement the peace agreement in good faith.

Another important issue that may be raised is whether more can be done to extend protection beyond the UNMISS POC sites—which now shelter nearly 179,000 people—given sporadic violations of the ceasefire agreement in recent months. In his assessment report, the Secretary-General argued that a portion of the troops providing security on the perimeter of the POC sites could be redirected to other areas. Along these lines, members may be interested in hearing more about the Secretary-General’s proposal to use military personnel to pilot “temporary austere operating bases” in high risk areas, to increase patrolling, and to carry out integrated patrols “leveraging not only the UNMISS Force and Police but also involving human rights, POC, child protection, civil affairs, and women protection advisors….”.

Another protection-related tool that the Council has authorised which may be discussed in the meeting is the potential use of unarmed and unmanned aerial systems (UAVs). The government of South Sudan has been strongly resistant to their deployment, and this was a controversial issue during the negotiations on resolution 2241 on UNMISS in October. While several members support the position of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that the UAVs should be deployed, other members, most notably Russia and Venezuela, have been opposed to them, largely due to concerns about South Sudan’s sovereignty.

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