South Sudan Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (26 April), the Council is scheduled to be briefed on South Sudan by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, and Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares. Ladsous is expected to cover the recent security and political developments in the country, as well as the activities of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Soares will probably focus his remarks on technical assistance provided by the Secretary-General to the AU for the implementation of Chapter V (i.e. justice and reconciliation) of the August 2015 peace agreement, as mandated by resolution 2241 of October 2015. The briefing will be followed by consultations.
Ladsous may describe ongoing violations of the ceasefire reported in various parts of the country that have long been of concern to Council members, including fighting earlier this month between government and opposition forces in Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Unity states. Deadly clashes between the Dinka and Shilluk communities (Upper Nile area), between the Murle and Nuer communities (the greater Pibor area) and between the Dinka and Fertit communities (the Greater Bahr el-Ghazal region) may also be covered in the briefing, as these were described in the Secretary-General’s 13 April UNMISS report to the Council (S/2016/341). As has often been the case since the start of the conflict in December 2013, it appears that in a number of these instances there has been an overlap between inter-communal violence and politically-motivated violence.
Given the ongoing attacks on civilians, members will be expecting an update from Ladsous on the mission’s protection of civilians activities, both in and around the UN’s protection of civilians (POC) sites and throughout the country. There are now 1.69 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan (including almost 200,000 in the UN’s POC sites), as well as over 700,000 refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
The UN has initiated a high-level Board of Inquiry led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support to investigate the 17-18 February incident in which inter-communal clashes at the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Malakal led to 25 deaths. It will probably be several weeks before the results of the Inquiry are known, but some Council members may be interested in preliminary information about the work programme and activities of the members of the team evaluating the mission’s handling of the incident. In its 17 March presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/1), the Council expressed alarm at reports that armed men in uniforms of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (i.e. government forces) fired on civilians during clashes in the site, which were marked by fighting between Dinka and Nuer communities.
A significant focus of the meeting will be the plans for the arrival of opposition leader Riek Machar in Juba. Machar’s long awaited return, which was scheduled for 18 April, has been postponed several times largely due to disagreements between the government and the opposition on the number of soldiers that could be brought to Juba and the types of weapons they should be allowed to transport. At press time, there were indications that Machar’s arrival could occur as soon as tomorrow. Council members will be keen to receive any information that Ladsous may be able to offer on Machar finally returning to Juba. Whether or not he is physically in Juba by the time of the briefing, members will probably want to know more about Machar’s initial plans, his likely interactions with government officials, when the transitional government of national unity is expected to be formed, and the main priorities of the new government.
Members have noted that Machar’s return is a prerequisite for the formation of the transitional government. On 19 April, following a briefing by Ladsous during consultations, members emphasised the importance of the formation of the transitional government in elements to the press, expressing serious concern with the delay in Machar’s return to Juba and calling for the new government to be established expeditiously.
Soares is expected to discuss the UN’s efforts to provide technical assistance to the AU on justice and accountability issues. He may recount the elements of the report that the Secretary-General forwarded to the Council on this issue on 7 April (S/2016/328). According to that report, there have been exchanges between the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs and the AU Commission’s Office of the Legal Counsel on the establishment of the Hybrid Court in South Sudan, focusing on the possible location of the court, its composition, the selection of judges, and matters related to funding, among other issues. Members may be interested in any additional information that Soares might be able to provide on the specific details of these interactions between the UN and the AU. They may want to know if there have been any additional discussions between the organisations on these issues since the release of the Secretary-General’s report over two weeks ago.
The Secretary-General’s report further notes that the UN Development Programme has provided technical advice on options for the development of a truth commission and the use of traditional approaches to reconciliation. Some members may want to know more about the nature of these options, as well potential engagement by UNMISS in facilitating truth and reconciliation processes.
Key concerns of the Secretary-General that may be reiterated by members are the need for a functional transitional government of national unity, which has yet to be formed, to engage meaningfully with regional and international organisations on the establishment of a hybrid tribunal, and the tribunal’s sustainable funding.