What's In Blue

Adoption of a South Sudan Presidential Statement

This afternoon (17 March), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a presidential statement on the situation in South Sudan. It seems that the purpose of the statement is to pressure the parties into implementing the peace agreement, a process that has been delayed amidst continued clashes in some parts of the country. The US, the penholder on South Sudan, circulated the draft on Wednesday (9 March), anticipating a quick adoption. Following a lengthy first round of negotiations on Thursday (10 March), the US circulated a revised draft. Bilateral exchanges were held to try and resolve differing views on the content and tone. The draft text, which passed the silence procedure this morning, is now ready to be adopted.

While noting that some progress has been made, the statement expresses deep concern that the parties have not fully adhered to their commitments to implement the agreement. In particular, it calls for the parties to take five steps, and states that the Council will review progress on these steps by 31 March. The steps include adhering to the permanent ceasefire; completing the implementation of security arrangements for Juba; filling the positions of President, First Vice-President and Vice-President in the Transitional Government of National Unity in Juba; abiding by and taking no action inconsistent with the January 2016 communiqué of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which urged an inclusive National Boundary Commission to review the proposed states (i.e. the government’s decision to create 28 states) and their boundaries; and protecting civilians and civilian facilities, and allowing for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.

While all members of the Council are concerned about the situation in South Sudan, differences remain regarding the course of action the Council should pursue. With regard to this statement, the US and other members believed that it was important to send a strong signal to the parties to comply with the peace agreement. These members would have preferred the statement to indicate that the Council would consider “appropriate measures” by 31 March if the parties did not adhere to the five steps outlined in the statement. They also would have liked more forceful language in other respects. The verb “demands,” which was incorporated in several places in the initial draft, has been omitted or replaced with “calls upon” in the final draft, with regard to the Council’s efforts to persuade the parties to comply with the peace agreement.

This less forceful approach is the result of compromises with Russia, China and three elected members, who maintained that presenting an ultimatum to the parties at this critical time in the peace agreement’s implementation could be counter-productive. These members were willing to accept the language calling for the Council to review progress by a certain date (i.e. 31 March), but only so long as the Council did not threaten “appropriate measures” for a lack of progress by that date. Russia further objected to employing the verb “demands” in the text, expressing the view that such language should only be used in Chapter VII resolutions.

In the statement, the Council expresses deep alarm at the situation in South Sudan. It states that while the ceasefire has largely held in the Greater Upper Nile, the Council is deeply concerned with ongoing violence, and it calls on the government to uphold its responsibility for the protection of civilians. Alarm is expressed over credible reports of armed men in Sudan People’s Liberation Army uniforms entering a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilians site and firing on civilians, a reference to the 17-18 February violence in Malakal.

Regarding this incident, the Council calls on the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attack. It further commends the UN’s announcement that it is establishing a Headquarters-led Board of Inquiry convened by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to carry out an in-depth investigation regarding UNMISS’ response to the incident.

There were differences of view regarding the references to the Malakal incident. The US and others believed that it was important to reiterate the Council’s alarm over the reports that armed men in SPLA uniforms had entered the camp and fired on civilians, essentially using the language employed in the 19 February press statement (SC/12252). Russia maintained that this did not add value to the draft. As a compromise, the text on Malakal was retained, as well as a US amendment referencing the announcement that a High-Level Board of Inquiry will be convened by the UN to investigate the incident.

The Council condemns reported violations and abuses of human rights, as well as violations of international humanitarian law. It references the 11 March 2016 report of the assessment mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the 4 December report of UNMISS and OHCHR on the human rights situation in South Sudan. The statement further expresses deep alarm at numerous reports of sexual violence in the conflict, as well as at the deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation in the country.

The need for accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law is underscored in the statement, which references the AU Peace and Security Council’s 26 September 2015 communiqué requesting the AU Commission chairperson to take all necessary steps to establish the Hybrid Court of South Sudan. It further calls for implementation of other elements of Chapter V of the Peace Agreement, including the Commission for Truth, Healing and Reconciliation.

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