South Sudan Briefing
Tomorrow (21 June), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom (via VTC). Following the briefing, Council members will hold consultations. Council members may issue press elements after the consultations, especially given the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situations and the limited progress on political issues.
Lacroix is expected to brief the Council on the current situation in South Sudan, recent developments related to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the ongoing challenges the mission faces. Haysom is expected to raise ongoing efforts to reach a political settlement. The briefing will occur against the backdrop of a political process that has effectively stalled; severe economic challenges; and the unravelling of the Transitional Government of National Unity, as key positions are filled with people loyal to President Salva Kiir or First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai.
The onset of the rainy season has significantly reduced mobility across South Sudan. Nevertheless, the unilateral ceasefire declared by the South Sudanese government has not been implemented and the security situation in many parts of the country, including Upper Nile, Jonglei, and the Equatoria region, continues to deteriorate. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (i.e., government forces) was able to make advances in a number of areas prior to the onset of the rain. These major offensives resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and are reported to have included human rights violations committed by both government and opposition forces.
Delays and obstacles continue to hinder the deployment of UNMISS personnel. Troop-contributing countries (TCCs) are reporting that uniformed personnel are being refused entry into South Sudan despite having visas issued by South Sudanese embassies; personnel with visas issued in Juba are being allowed to enter. The lack of progress in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF)—which is authorised to use all necessary means to facilitate freedom of movement, to protect the airport, and to protect civilians—remains an ongoing problem. RPF infantry battalions are set to begin arriving in June. However, there has still not been agreement over the RPF’s mandate to protect Juba International Airport, with the government consistently reiterating that it needs to retain control over safeguarding the airport.
Council members are expected to welcome the communiqué from the 31st Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa on 12 June. The communiqué:
• strongly condemned violence perpetuated by government forces and armed groups in South Sudan;
• decided to convene a meeting of RPF TCCs, the South Sudanese government, and the UN to resolve the impediments to the RPFs deployment; and
• decided to convene a High-level Revitalization Forum to “discuss concrete measures, to restore [a] permanent ceasefire, to [implement fully] the Peace Agreement and to develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transition period”.
Council members may raise the national dialogue process that is being advanced by the South Sudanese government. They may seek more information from Haysom on the dialogue, including the content of his discussions with the parties on the process, how committed he believes they are to it, and what the next steps might be. On 2 June, the co-chair of the dialogue steering committee announced that President Kiir would recuse himself from leading the process, a necessary first step to making any dialogue inclusive. However, it remains to be seen whether Kiir will follow through on this commitment. The dialogue continues to be viewed with suspicion by opposition groups, with the former detainees calling for an end to fighting before undertaking the dialogue, and SPLA-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition) members loyal to Riek Machar refusing to participate without the inclusion of Machar, who has been specifically excluded.
Several Council members have long been troubled by the parties’ unwillingness or inability to follow through on their commitments, including with regard to implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement and in relation to cooperating with UNMISS and permitting unhindered humanitarian access. As in the past, members are expected to emphasise the need for commitments by the parties to be followed by constructive actions, if the crisis in South Sudan is to be resolved.
Some Council members are likely to reiterate their support for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions. However, the Council continues to be divided over the merits of such additional measures. Some members maintain that these measures could exert leverage on the parties and reduce the level of violence; others hold the view that they would have little impact, or would be counterproductive.