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South Sudan Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (17 October), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Council members will hold consultations following the briefing.

Lacroix is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s confidential 30-day report on the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and any obstructions the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is facing in carrying out its mandate. In addition, LaCroix will most likely describe the current security and humanitarian environment in the country, as well as recent developments related to efforts to reach a political settlement to the conflict.

Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016, is continuing. As of late September 2017, approximately 650 of the authorised 4,000 RPF troops had arrived in the country. Despite the South Sudanese government’s stated consent to the deployment of the RPF, critical issues have yet to be resolved, such as the positioning of the RPF in relation to Juba airport — including at the Mission’s adjacent Tomping base. In this context, members may be interested in hearing about efforts being made to ensure the RPF is able to deploy fully as soon as possible and carry out its mandate.

The situation on the ground in South Sudan has changed significantly since the RPF was initially authorised in August 2016. Fighting has shifted from Juba to a number of locations across the country, reducing the immediate need for a force to stabilise Juba itself. Members may seek to discuss with Lacroix whether the deployment of the RPF could, when completed, allow the redeployment of UNMISS resources from Juba to those areas most affected by recent violence. Along these lines, during his briefing to the Council on 26 September, Special Representative for South Sudan David Shearer suggested that the deployment of additional RPF forces would enable the mission to project into the Equatorias, an area of significant violence over the past year, to better pursue its mandate to protect civilians (S/PV.8056).

Members are expected to again express concern that the security situation in many parts of the country continues to deteriorate, including in Upper Nile and Jonglei, in addition to the Equatoria region. These concerns may be heightened with the dry season approaching, when increased mobility leads to heavier fighting. Military offensives by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (i.e., government forces) in recent months have substantially worsened the humanitarian situation, as the population faces forced large-scale displacement, severe food insecurity and an escalating national economic crisis. Members may also express concern that humanitarian organisations continue to experience a growing number of impediments in accessing conflict-affected people. According to OCHA, 101 access incidents were reported in September, with about 65 percent involving violence against humanitarian personnel and assets. Two aid workers were killed in September.

Council members will most likely also be interested in hearing an update on the regional efforts to promote a political settlement to the conflict, in particular the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD’s) initiative to convene a High Level Revitalisation Forum. In this regard, there may be interest in hearing more about the current round of IGAD-led consultations held separately with government, opposition and civil society actors from 13 to 17 October. An IGAD Council of Ministers delegation, led by Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu, met with President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Taban Deng Gai on 13 October. Prior to the meetings in Juba, an IGAD delegation met with opposition leader and former First Vice-President Riek Machar in South Africa on 4 October. During the meeting Machar expressed his commitment to the IGAD process, his spokesperson said, marking an apparent shift in position from a letter Machar sent to the Secretary-General on 14 September. Members may be interested in information on the substance of these meetings and on the next steps in implementing the Revitalisation Forum, while considering options for how the Council can support IGAD’s efforts.

Although Council members have expressed support for IGAD’s efforts and the need for a political solution to the conflict, there does not seem to be a unified strategy for how to influence the behaviour of the parties. Some Council members will most likely reiterate their support for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions. Members in favour of such measures may refer to the 20 September report of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts (S/2017/789), which again recommends an arms embargo and targeted sanctions “as important tools for shifting the focus of key leaders away from military options and towards a political solution.” However, it seems that members continue to be divided over the merits and timing of such additional measures.

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. This 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.

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