South Sudan Briefing
Tomorrow (16 November), 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, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui (via VTC) and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Council members are not scheduled to hold consultations following the briefing.
The focus of tomorrow’s briefing will be the joint AU-UN visit to South Sudan from 7 to 9 October, by Lacroix, Chergui and Mlambo-Ngcuka. The delegation was joined by the co chair of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (known as AU FemWise), Specioza Wandira Kazibwe. An informal interactive dialogue on the joint visit was originally planned to take place in October, but this did not occur, apparently due to scheduling issues, and tomorrow’s briefing was subsequently put on the Council’s programme of work for this month.
The joint AU-UN visit followed the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September in Addis Ababa. It focused on promoting women’s meaningful participation and leadership in the implementation of the R-ARCSS, the role of the AU and the UN in supporting this process and engaging with various stakeholders in this regard. During their visit, the delegation met with high level government officials, and women leaders and organisations in Juba and Bentiu. They visited the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilians site in Bentiu, the largest such site operated by the mission and home to over 100,000 internally displaced persons, most of them women and children. The delegation also travelled to Addis Ababa and met with the AU Peace and Security Council on 10 October, to discuss implementation of the R-ARCSS and the prioritisation of women’s participation in this process.
During his briefing, Lacroix is likely to highlight aspects of the joint trip. He may emphasise that while the signing of the R-ARCSS is a welcome and encouraging development, there is a long way to go to achieving peace in South Sudan, a point he expressed at a media briefing in Juba on 9 October. During that briefing, he added that the implementation of the peace agreement is primarily the responsibility of the South Sudanese parties, but that the UN is willing to help the parties in this regard. In tomorrow’s meeting, he may also acknowledge that while there has been a reported decrease in fighting since the signing of the R-ARCSS, a full cessation of hostilities still needs to be implemented by the parties, as agreed in the R-ARCSS.
Chergui, who signed the R-ARCSS on behalf of the AU Commission as a guarantor, is also likely to emphasise the importance of implementation and the need for this to be inclusive of women and youth especially. He may also update the Council on steps the AU is taking to support the implementation of the agreement.
Mlambo-Ngcuka may inform the Council of her interactions with women in South Sudan, including their expectations following the signing of the R-ARCSS. At the media briefing in Juba on 9 October, she said that women had told her that they wanted to be part of security sector reform efforts and to interact with the government directly to convey their expectations and to emphasise the need for infrastructure, education and economic opportunities. Mlambo-Ngcuka may also refer to the fact that the R-ARCSS requires 35 percent participation of women in the Executive of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, in particular the nomination of no fewer than ten women to the 35-member Council of Ministers. Council members may be interested in receiving an update on where this requirement currently stands. The R-ARCSS was signed by several women’s groups as stakeholders, including the Women’s Bloc, Women Coalition and the Organization for Gender Empowerment for South Sudan.
As consultations are not scheduled to follow the briefing, it is likely that most or all 15 Council members will make statements in the open chamber. These statements may touch on different areas, including the dire humanitarian and human rights situations in the country, with almost 60 per cent of the population suffering acute food insecurity by late September. On the human rights situation, some members may refer to the 18 October joint report by UNMISS and OHCHR on violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed against civilians in Western Equatoria between April and August. The report documented attacks on at least 28 villages, including unlawful killings, abduction, rape, sexual slavery, forced recruitment, and destruction of property. During these attacks, at least 887 civilians were abducted, mostly women and girls, and 24,000 were forced to flee their homes, according to the report.
A number of members have continued to follow closely the human rights and humanitarian situations in South Sudan, including in recent days. On 12 November, the UK hosted an informal meeting with members of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, appointed by the Human Rights Council. On 14 November, the Netherlands and Sweden co-hosted an informal meeting on food security in South Sudan.
Tomorrow, some Council members may also refer to the mission of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to South Sudan from 4 to 7 November, led by the chair, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden). During the visit, Skoog said that, given the suffering of the children of South Sudan during years of conflict, the R-ARCSS is “the opportunity to turn the corner and to ensure that the children are well-protected.” He added that the Working Group’s visit was a manifestation of support for the various actors—including UNMISS, UNICEF and local NGOs—working on behalf of children in the country.
Looking ahead, the Council expects to be briefed next on South Sudan in December on the Secretary-General’s upcoming 90-day report.