South Sudan Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (24 August), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom and Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairman Festus Mogae are also expected to brief (both via video teleconference). Following the briefing, Council members will hold consultations.
Wane is expected to brief the Council on the challenges facing the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in carrying out its mandate, and the 30-day report on the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF). Council members will be interested in hearing about the progress and difficulties in the deployment of the RPF, initially authorised in August 2016. To date, the Bangladeshi construction engineering company has partially deployed and the Nepalese high readiness company has fully deployed to Juba. The Rwandan infantry battalion began arriving in South Sudan in early August. Ethiopian troops who will participate in the RPF are expected to arrive shortly.
Members will be interested in the latest information on interactions between the mission and the government with regard to the RPF’s mandate to protect Juba International Airport. According to resolution 2327 of 16 December 2016 reauthorising the RPF, the force’s mandate includes to “[p]rotect the airport to ensure the airport remains operational.” However, the government has consistently reiterated that it needs to retain control over safeguarding the airport. Over the weekend, the government issued a warning regarding the deployment of RPF forces at the airport, which it alleges is not consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement. The government suspended UNMISS flights temporarily over the weekend, but allowed them to resume on Monday (21 August). Council members may be interested to hear more about the context surrounding the government’s reaction and what impact this may have on the RPF’s deployment and on its ability to carry out its mandate.
Some members are likely to express concern about the dire humanitarian and security situation. UNHCR released a statement on 17 August, announcing that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda has passed the one million mark. According to the statement, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day over the past 12 months, with more than 85 percent being women and children. In addition to the million there, a million or more South Sudanese refugees are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. According to UNHCR, recent arrivals in Uganda “continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription.” Conflict between government and opposition forces has continued, exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe gripping the country, despite the unilateral ceasefire declared by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on 22 May, which has since been effectively discarded.
Haysom and Mogae are expected to brief on the ongoing efforts to promote a political settlement to the conflict. They will most likely discuss the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) efforts to revitalise the South Sudan peace process. In this context, several Council members may welcome the communiqué adopted by the IGAD Council of Ministers after its 58th Extra-Ordinary session in Juba on 23-24 July, which urged “all South Sudanese stakeholders to embrace the objectives of the High Level Revitalization Forum for the Implementation of the ARCSS” [the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan]. According to the 12 June communiqué of the Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD Heads of State held in Addis Ababa, the revitalization forum is designed to “discuss concrete measures, to restore [a] permanent ceasefire, to full implementation [sic] of 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”. The forum is expected to convene in early October. Haysom and Mogae will most likely report on the commitment of IGAD member states to the process, and next steps leading up to the forum.
As in previous briefings, Council members may raise the national dialogue process that is being advanced by the South Sudanese government. They may seek more information on the status of the dialogue, and its relationship to the revitalisation forum. Haysom will probably emphasise, as he did during his last briefing to the Council in June, that while a genuinely inclusive and credible national dialogue would be an important nation-building exercise, it would have to be preceded by a political process that creates the necessary security and political environment for such inclusion. Council members will want to hear from Haysom and Mogae how the Council could further support efforts by the AU and IGAD in pursuit of a political solution in South Sudan.
As in the past, Council 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. Such actions would include full implementation by the parties of their commitments under the August 2015 peace agreement, cooperation with UNMISS, and the permitting of unhindered humanitarian access.
Some Council members are likely to reiterate their support for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions. However, members continue to be divided over the merits of such additional measures and Council action in this regard is unlikely.