What's In Blue

Posted Thu 18 Feb 2016

South Sudan Briefings

Tomorrow (19 February), the Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in South Sudan and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), as well as on the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee. Regarding the situation in South Sudan and UNMISS, briefers are expected to include Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan Moustapha Soumaré (via VTC); Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC) Festus Mogae (via VTC); and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic (via VTC). Ambassador Fodé Seck of Senegal, the Chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to brief the Council on its work.

There is widespread recognition among Council members that the South Sudan peace process is at a critical juncture in the context of a dire humanitarian and security situation. However, there have been divisions among Council members on the appropriate approach to South Sudan, as reflected by abstentions by Russia and Venezuela on the two most recent UNMISS resolutions in October and December 2015.

Briefings on UNMISS and the Situation in South Sudan

Soumaré is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s UNMISS report and recent developments in South Sudan. His briefing will provide an overview of political, security and humanitarian developments. He may report on the peace process, which has made some progress but continues to experience setbacks and delays.

Regarding the security situation, he may discuss the recent violence in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el-Ghazal between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) (i.e., government forces) and armed groups. Soumaré may also refer to what UNMISS is doing to provide safety and security to the over 199,000 people being protected in UNMISS bases across the country, as well as efforts by the mission to project its protection capacities outside the bases. The safety and security of people inside the bases may be highlighted by some members, given yesterday’s clashes between Dinka and Shilluk youth in the Malakal base, which has led to the deaths of at least 18 people and injuries to many others. UNMISS’ protection capabilities is an issue that has long occupied Council members; as recently as this Tuesday (16 February), the mission’s protection activities were the subject of an informal briefing for troop contributors by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the New Zealand mission.

The dire humanitarian situation will probably be an aspect of his briefing. Approximately 2.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict, and more than 3.9 million are facing severe food insecurity. In light of these conditions, the Secretary-General has requested that donor states contribute to the 2016 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $1.31 billion to help those affected by the conflict. It is possible that Soumaré will also address access restrictions on peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel, who continue to be subjected to “physical assault, extortion, harassment, threats and detention,” according to the Secretary-General.

Briefings by Mogae and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHCR) were requested by the US, the penholder on South Sudan. Mogae is expected to discuss efforts to implement the August peace agreement in his capacity as chair of the JMEC, the body responsible for overseeing the agreement’s implementation. This briefing is in accordance with the 31 January communiqué of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which asked the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council “to review the progress made in implementation within two weeks…” Mogae may note that the government’s decision to create 28 states has placed strains on the peace process, while describing efforts to create transitional security and governing institutions.

Šimonovic will brief on the human rights situation in South Sudan, including the findings of the 4 December 2015 joint UNMISS-OHCHR report, which focuses on the state of human rights since the outbreak of hostilities in December 2013. According to the report, the scale, intensity and severity of human rights abuses increased with the continuation of hostilities, particularly during spikes in fighting in the middle and latter part of 2015. Despite the severity of human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated by both sides in the conflict, there are no tangible accountability mechanisms, the report says. It emphasises the establishment of transitional justice and accountability mechanisms that must include comprehensive and credible investigations into the full scope of human rights violations.

Briefing on the South Sudan Sanctions Committee

Ambassador Seck is expected to focus his briefing on the final report of the Panel of Experts of the Sudan Sanctions Committee (S/2016/70). He may highlight the Panel’s conclusion that, given the weight of the evidence, Kiir and Machar maintained command responsibility over their respective forces, with “clear and convincing evidence that most acts of violence committed during the war, including the targeting of civilians and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, [were] directed by or undertaken with the knowledge of senior individuals at the highest levels of the Government and within the opposition.”

Seck is expected to refer to the four major recommendations of the report. These include:

&#8226 targeted sanctions (i.e. an assets freeze and travel ban) on high-level decision makers responsible for threatening the peace, security and stability of South Sudan;

&#8226 an arms embargo on South Sudan;

&#8226 adherence by companies doing business in South Sudan to transparency standards, including the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the due-diligence guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and

&#8226 cooperation with the Panel by humanitarian actors, who are part of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and Gender-based Violence Information Management System in South Sudan, to identify those violating international human rights and humanitarian law, including “those involved in the use of children in armed conflict and conflict-related sexual violence.”

There are divisions among members on these recommendations. On the first one, while several members believe that the threat of targeted measures can play an effective role in pressuring spoilers to adhere to the peace agreement, it seems that a large and growing number of Council members believe that sanctioning Kiir and Machar at this critical juncture in the peace process, as was reportedly proposed in a confidential annex to the panel’s report, would be a mistake.

Some members have strongly supported an arms embargo (the second recommendation), maintaining that it could be an effective tool for curtailing violence in South Sudan. However, other members, including Russia, have expressed their opposition. This issue may be the focus of lively discussion during the consultations tomorrow, especially as a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime is expected to be considered in the coming days.

The third recommendation calling on companies doing business in South Sudan to adhere to specific transparency standards was rejected at the level of the Sanctions Committee. During the 14 January committee meeting, some members supported this measure, but others reportedly argued that its implementation would be a violation of South Sudan’s sovereignty.

There does not seem to be opposition to the final recommendation, which focuses on cooperation between the Panel and humanitarian actors in South Sudan. However, one permanent member placed a technical hold on this recommendation at the committee-level, although the precise reason is unclear.

Seck may provide a brief summary of the meeting of the Sanctions Committee last Friday (12 February) with South Sudan and states in the region, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The discussion at that meeting focused on implementation of the travel ban and assets freeze on the six individuals currently designated for targeted measures.

Looking ahead, Council members will be negotiating a resolution renewing the sanctions regime and the committee’s panel of experts. The draft text has yet to be circulated to all members by the penholder, the US, but the adoption is currently scheduled for 25 February.

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