South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (24 January), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller. Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairperson Festus Mogae is also expected to brief from Juba (via video teleconference). Council members will hold consultations following the briefing. No outcome is expected.
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. Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016 and is expected eventually to comprise 4,000 troops, continues, although at present less than a quarter of the authorised number of RPF personnel have been deployed. Lacroix may also refer to the fact that an agreement has not yet been reached with the government for the use of the Tomping base by RPF units and that UNMISS continues to encounter violations of the Status of Forces Agreement, including among other things, restrictions of movement by government forces, the arrest and detention of UNMISS personnel, and the seizure of UN property.
Lacroix will also most likely describe the current security environment in the country, in particular since the signing of the 21 December 2017 agreement at the conclusion of the first phase of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which required parties to cease all hostile military actions on 24 December 2017. Signatories included all parties to the 2015 peace agreement, as well as new parties to the conflict that have formed after July 2016, when violence erupted in Juba between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar, leading to Machar’s departure from the country. According to the 21 December 2017 agreement, the Chairperson of JMEC is expected to report any serious breaches to the government, the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), and the UN Security Council for their action. The Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers (and the JMEC) receives this information from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), which is the body mandated to monitor violations of the agreement. The agreement also includes provisions requiring the parties to cooperate with UNMISS in the discharge of its mandate to protect civilians and to fully support the full and rapid deployment and operations of the RPF.
In this regard, Mogae will most likely brief on reports JMEC has received from CTSAMM on violations of the ceasefire. As of press time, CTSAMM had released two reports since the signing of the agreement, finding that both the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-In Opposition had violated the ceasefire. Council members may be interested in hearing more about these violations and the work of the CTSAMM more broadly from Mogae. In addition, Mogae may provide details on JMEC’s consultative meeting with IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais on 18 January and a meeting with representatives from IGAD, the AU, the Troika (the UK, US and Norway), UNMISS and the European Union on 22 January, held to discuss the 21 December 2017 agreement and the second phase of the HLRF expected to be convened in February. Members will likely be interested to receive further details on the next phase of the HLRF and on how the AU PSC Summit, scheduled to take place on the margins of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU in Addis Ababa on 27 January, will address the situation in South Sudan.
With regard to the humanitarian situation, members may be interested to hear Mueller’s assessment of the level of implementation of the relevant provisions of the 21 December 2017 agreement dealing with humanitarian access. These include the requirements that the parties allow and facilitate unfettered access to people in need to receive assistance from the UN and impartial international and national non-governmental organisations; that they guarantee the safety and security of all humanitarian personnel; and that they facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons. In addition, Mueller may brief on whether President Salva Kiir’s decree of 9 November 2017, 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, nearly four million people—about one in three South Sudanese—have been displaced both inside South Sudan and in neighbouring countries, with nearly 700,000 people fleeing to neighbouring countries in 2017. According to a 19 January statement by the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, following a two-day visit to South Sudan, some 2.4 million children have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began, and more than 2,300 children have been killed. Over 19,000 have been recruited into armed groups, and more than a quarter of a million children are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death, the statement said.
Council members share deep concern about the political and humanitarian situation in South Sudan now in its fifth year, as reflected in the presidential statement adopted on 14 December 2017. While Council members expressed strong support for IGAD’s mediation efforts in the presidential statement, differences arose during negotiations over language on potential consequences for undermining the peace process. These differences were in line with the long-standing divide in the Council over whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. While the presidential statement refers to the need for “cost and consequences for those who undermine the HLRF process”, it remains to be seen whether and how Council members will take this forward in 2018. It seems that potential Council action in this regard will include assessments of the extent of ceasefire violations, and the respective outcomes of the AU PSC Summit at the end of January and the second phase of the HLRF expected in February.