South Sudan Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (28 November), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita. Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais is also expected to brief via VTC. Council members will hold consultations following the briefing.
Keita 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. Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016 and is expected eventually to comprise 4,000 troops, continues to more forward slowly. In addition, Keita will most likely cover 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.
Members are expected to emphasise that the security, humanitarian and human rights situations in South Sudan remain a cause for grave concern, nearly four years since the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013. Violent clashes between government and opposition forces in several areas of the country continue, including in the greater Upper Nile and Equatoria regions. Fighting, displacement and violations against civilians risk further escalation in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and improved mobility, which traditionally leads to increased levels of violence.
On the humanitarian situation, members may be interested to hear whether President Salva Kiir’s decree on 9 November, ordering “free, unimpeded and unhindered movement” for humanitarian aid convoys, including the removal of roadblocks, has led to any improvements on the ground. According to OCHA, the number of internally displaced South Sudanese is 1.86 million, and an additional 2.1 million people have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. Approximately 4.8 million people face severe food insecurity, with the situation projected to deteriorate further at the start of 2018 to an estimated 5.1 million people. OCHA reported that out of the 116 access incidents reported in October, 60 involved violence against personnel or assets, while the number of incidents in Central Equatoria substantially increased.
Council members may also want information on the current situation in Juba, after a weeklong stand-off there between the government and Paul Malong, former chief of staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), was peacefully resolved on 12 November. Dozens of government tanks and troops, which were deployed along the road leading to Malong’s home in Juba, were withdrawn after Malong agreed to reduce the number of soldiers guarding his home from 35 to three. Malong was also subsequently released from the house arrest he had been under since Kiir dismissed him in May.
Wais is expected to provide an update on IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the South Sudan peace process. The outcome of the IGAD-led consultations held separately with government, opposition and civil society actors in October is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers in December. The release of a timeline by IGAD regarding next steps in the process, and the convening of a high-level forum, is subsequently expected. Members will be interested in any updates Wais can provide on the upcoming Council of Ministers meeting, including how the discussions at this meeting will be used to inform the high-level forum, who will participate in the high-level forum, and what its objectives will be. 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.
Next month, it seems that a technical rollover of the mandate, which expires on 15 December, would be a likely option, as it would allow members to consider the findings of the Secretary-General’s recently initiated strategic review of the mission. When the review team completes its work, it will share its findings with the Secretary-General, who is expected to use the information to inform a report on this issue that will be submitted early next year to the Council. By that time, there may also be progress on IGAD’s efforts, which could further influence Council action in this regard.