UN Mission in South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (25 June), Special Representative for South Sudan and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer will brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the situation in South Sudan (S/2019/491). Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour is also expected to brief, as well as a civil society representative (via VTC from Juba, South Sudan). Consultations will follow the briefing.
Shearer is expected to highlight key aspects of the Secretary-General’s report, which covers the period from 27 February to 28 May, in relation to political and security developments, the humanitarian and human rights situation, and progress in the implementation of the mission’s mandate. On the political situation, Shearer will likely refer to the decision on 2 May by the parties to extend the pre-transition period set out in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) by six months to enable the implementation of critical pending tasks. According to the terms of the R-ARCSS, 12 May was to mark the end of the eight-month pre-transition period and the start of the 36-month transition period, with elections to be held 60 days before the end of this transition period. A statement by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on 3 May observed that pre-transition tasks critical for the formation of the Revitalized Government of National Unity, such as the cantonment, screening, training, unification and deployment of forces and the determination of the number and boundaries of states, are pending. The statement identified a lack of political will and financing as well as time constraints as major challenges to implementation.
Shearer is expected to emphasise that the R-ARCSS remains the only option for a political solution to the crisis in South Sudan. He may welcome the commitment made by the parties to implement the outstanding tasks in the additional six months by which the pre-transition period was extended, and stress that the opportunity afforded by this extension should not be wasted. As stated in the Secretary-General’s report, “significant political investment” by the parties and the region is required to avoid missing the new deadline, with priority given to resolving the transitional security arrangements, including the security of the opposition members of the reconstituted transitional government. Council members may be interested in hearing further details from Shearer on what specific steps the parties have recently taken—as well as what steps the mission is taking—to support the peace process in light of resolution 2459 adopted on 15 March, which specified “advice or technical assistance, within existing resources” as part of the mission’s mandate.
On the security situation, Shearer will likely refer to the permanent ceasefire which continues to hold across most parts of the country and the ongoing subnational rapprochements between government and opposition forces and officials noted in the Secretary-General’s report. However, he may caution that the situation remains precarious with increased movement and reinforcement of troops; sporadic clashes; skirmishes along the border between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces; cattle raids; attacks on civilians; intercommunal violence; and persistent sexual and gender-based violence being reported.
Despite improvement in the overall security situation since the signing of the R-ARCSS, Shearer will likely emphasise that the humanitarian situation remains serious. The Secretary-General’s report estimates that between February and April 6.45 million people (57% of the population) faced acute food insecurity or worse, and an estimated 45,000 people were believed to be in phase 5, “catastrophe”, of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system, with these estimates expected to rise during the height of the lean season (May to August). On 14 June, the IPC issued updated figures for May, with 6.96 million people (61% of the population) facing crisis (phase 3) and above food insecurity. The permanent ceasefire has generally improved humanitarian access, except for areas of Western and Central Equatoria, the report said.
Shearer may also note that more internally displaced persons are expressing a willingness to leave UNMISS protection sites, as well as refer to the unverified reports of the return of over 147,400 South Sudanese refugees. In spite of this encouraging information, the overall numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees remained the same as the previous reporting period at 1.9 million and 2.3 million respectively. As of 13 June, there were 181,096 civilians seeking safety in the six protection of civilians’ sites located on UNMISS bases. Council members may welcome more information on potential returnees, as resolution 2459 added language calling on the mission to “support the facilitation of the safe, informed, voluntary, and dignified return or relocation of [internally displaced persons] from United Nations protection of civilian sites, in coordination with humanitarian actors and other relevant stakeholders, and within existing resources”.
In relation to the implementation of the mandate of UNMISS, Shearer may emphasise the continued need for mission personnel to be allowed free and unhindered movement. The Secretary-General’s report notes that during the reporting period, UNMISS recorded 42 incidents constituting violations of the status-of-forces agreement, compared with 20 in the previous reporting period. Shearer may refer to a recent incident in which an UNMISS force protection team accompanying a World Food Program convoy was held for almost a week, pending various permissions to proceed.
In his briefing to the Council, Gilmour is expected to express concern over the human rights situation in South Sudan. He may refer in particular to the Central Equatoria region, where clashes continue between government forces and non-signatory opposition armed groups and inter-communal violence persists. According to the Secretary-General’s report, UNMISS verified 81 incidents that resulted in the killing of 154 civilians and the injury of 125 others during the reporting period, although access restrictions continued to impair the mission’s ability to monitor and investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses. Gilmour may refer to incidents including the killing or wounding of civilians, state-sanctioned executions, abductions, forced and child recruitment, conflict-related sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, forced displacement, and the looting and destruction of civilian property. Gilmour is also likely to discuss curtailment of freedom of expression and highlight that a culture of impunity continues to fuel acts of violence against civilians. The government has yet to sign the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.