Security Council Visiting Mission to South Sudan and Addis Ababa
Security Council members depart today (1 September), for a visiting mission to South Sudan, which will be co-led by the US and Senegal, to engage with government officials and members of civil society. After three days in South Sudan, the Council will stop briefly in Addis Ababa, where Council members are expected to hold meetings with representatives of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the AU Peace and Security Council on 5 September, prior to returning to New York.
The visiting mission takes place in the context of a grave security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan and serious challenges in implementing the August 2015 peace agreement. While members have been considering a mission to South Sudan for some time, the US, which is the penholder on this issue, proposed the current mission on 24 August. The visiting mission is viewed as an opportunity to interact with key government and civil society actors, as well as with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and its humanitarian partners.
Members will be looking to gauge the level of cooperation between the government and UNMISS with regard to the implementation of the mission’s mandate, which includes the protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian access, human rights monitoring and verification and support for implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement. One ongoing concern that is expected to be raised by the Council is the continuing obstructions to the operations of UNMISS, which have hindered the mission’s activities and ability to carry out its mandate. The Council has repeatedly expressed concerns about these restrictions, most recently condemning them in resolution 2304, which renewed the mission’s mandate on 12 August. During the visiting mission, members will reiterate the importance of cooperating with UNMISS and the need to allow for unfettered humanitarian access, while raising concerns about the safety and security of UNMISS personnel and their humanitarian partners.
Members are expected to register their alarm at the dire security and human rights situation. Attacks on civilians, including rampant sexual violence, have been a consistent feature in the conflict. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein reported at least 217 cases of sexual violence in Juba between 8 and 25 July by the parties to the conflict, including rape and gang rape. Some of the murder and rape victims were apparently targeted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces because of their Nuer ethnicity. In its engagement with government officials, members of the Council may underscore that these attacks cannot continue and that there needs to be accountability for them.
Another topic of discussion with the government will be the envisioned Regional Protection Force, which was authorised by the Council in resolution 2304 and will be responsible for “providing a secure environment in and around Juba…and in extremis in other parts of South Sudan as necessary”. It will have a three-fold mandate: to facilitate movement into, out of and around Juba; to protect key facilities in Juba, including the airport; and to “promptly and effectively engage any actor that is…preparing attacks, or engages in attacks, against” UN facilities (including protection-of-civilians sites), UN personnel, humanitarian actors or civilians. Council members may stress the importance of government cooperation with the Force. Although the government has expressed ambivalence about the Force, viewing it as a violation of sovereignty, it has provided its support “in principle” for the Force. During their explanations of vote on resolution 2304, some Council members, including China and Russia, emphasised the importance of South Sudan’s consent and of working out the modalities of the Force with the government.
There will probably be engagement with civil society representatives and with those who have been displaced by the conflict. This may offer the chance for feedback on security conditions on the ground, as well as an opportunity to get a wider range of views on the future of the peace process.
The meetings in Addis will allow members to engage with regional partners on the political and security dimensions of the crisis in South Sudan. These meetings will also provide an opportunity to discuss the deployment of UNMISS’s Regional Protection Force.