Security Council Visiting Mission to South Sudan and the AU
Nairobi – Security Council members arrived in Nairobi today (19 October) ahead of a visiting mission to South Sudan tomorrow (20 October) and the AU (21 – 22 October). During the one-day visit to South Sudan, Council members will push for implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). The mission will then proceed to Addis Ababa for Council members’ annual joint consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC).
South Africa and the US are co-leading the mission to South Sudan, which comes just three weeks before the 12 November deadline for concluding the pre-transition period of the R-ARCSS. The agreement was reached in September 2018, and since then the overall level of political violence has diminished. However, its implementation has progressed slowly. The initial eight-month period to complete the pre-transition period was extended by six months to its current 12 November date, when the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity should be formed. The transitional government would then govern for a three year-period that would culminate in elections.
In addition to the pending deadline to form the transitional government, critical unresolved tasks for the pre-transition period include the cantonment and training of unified security forces and agreeing on the number and boundaries of states. Earlier this month, the Council adopted a presidential statement to encourage positive and necessary progress ahead of the pre-transition deadline. According to the visiting mission’s Terms of Reference (TOR), it seeks to demonstrate the Council’s support for the peace process, and urges the parties to the R-ARCSS to resolve outstanding issues to allow for the formation of the transitional government. Other objectives include: to express support for the efforts of regional organisations and actors working to facilitate the peace process, observe and support the efforts of UNMISS to implement its mandate, reiterate its call for the government to comply with the Status of Forces Agreement with UNMISS and highlight the need to improve the humanitarian, human rights and economic situation.
Upon arriving tomorrow morning in Juba, Council members will first meet with representatives of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Country Team. Briefings are expected from Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer and the Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator, Alain Noudéhou. This will be followed by a meeting with civil society, including womens’ groups, with whom they may focus on the issue of sexual violence that has been so widespread during the conflict.
A key meeting is then planned with all the signatory parties to the R-ARCSS. This will include President Salva Kiir (with whom Council members will also meet separately). It is hoped that opposition leader Riek Machar, who has just returned to Juba, will attend. During the meeting, members are likely to express concerns about delays in implementing the R-ARCSS, while seeking information on how the parties intend to move forward the agreement and discussing how the Council can support them.
The Council also plans to visit a training facility for the integration of security forces. A visit to a Protection of Civilians site had been suggested during the planning of tomorrow’s mission, and Council visiting missions in 2014 and 2016 had visited such sites. However, the Council decided to prioritise a training site visit as the issue of cantonment and integration of security forces represents one of the main challenges to R-ARCSS implementation. Touring the facility will enable Council members to see first-hand one of these sites, while signaling to the signatory parties the importance of making progress on this issue. The mission will conclude with a press conference.
The Joint Consultative Meeting in Addis Ababa
In Addis Ababa, members of the Security Council and the PSC will hold their 13th joint consultative meeting. These annual joint meetings began in 2007, and have alternated between the respective headquarters of the two Councils. The joint consultative meeting is scheduled for 22 October. The day before (21 October), the members of the Security Council and the PSC will hold informal consultations, a practice that started in 2016, which members have found useful for greater interaction and more substantive discussion, particularly on more controversial topics.
Prior to these meetings, however, Council members will first receive a briefing from Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) Hanna Tetteh. Members will then visit the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. Members also plan to meet Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for domestic reforms he has been leading, his initiative to resolve the conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, and his role in contributing to the recent agreement for a transitional period in Sudan.
For the informal consultations that afternoon, the topics include the AU’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative and joint visiting missions of the two Councils. South Africa, this month’s Security Council president, has sought to include as a third agenda item the issue of financing for AU-led peace operations. But it seems that the AU PSC has continued to object to discussing this during the session.
On 19 September, the AU PSC sent a letter to the A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa—the three current African members on the UN Security Council), informing them that the PSC had decided that they should postpone submission of a draft resolution that they had been negotiating in the Council since August. That draft resolution was a revised version of a draft circulated by the then-A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) at the end of 2018, but not put to a vote. The PSC letter claimed that the new draft did not sufficiently reflect the partnership that should guide cooperation with the UN Security Council, and that more time was necessary to generate a common understanding among AU members of the practical meaning and implications of their commitment in 2016 to contribute 25 percent of the costs of its AU-led peace operations. It said these issues should be discussed at the next AU Assembly before submitting a new resolution to the Council, and that the item would be removed from the agenda of the joint Security Council-AU PSC meeting.
The joint consultative meeting on 22 October will cover South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and the Sahel, and Libya. The discussion on South Sudan is expected to be an opportunity for Council members to discuss their visit, and exchange views on the way forward in light of the upcoming 12 November deadline for the end of the pre-transition period. Both Councils seem quite united in their view of the urgency to form a transitional government and resolve the issue of security arrangements. On the CAR, they will discuss implementation of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation reached in February.
Regarding Mali and the Sahel agenda, including the Lake Chad Basin, both bodies are concerned about the deteriorating security situation. Discussion is expected to cover implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. It will address the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S) to combat terrorist and organised crime groups, and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram; both the FC-G5S and the MNJTF are authorised by the PSC. Additionally, there may be consideration of the range of initiatives to address root causes contributing to the region’s insecurity, such as underdevelopment, poor governance and climate change.
This will be the first time since the 2011 meeting that Libya is on the agenda. (The 2011 meeting was held in June, just four months after the start of the conflict). It is an issue that has divided Council members over the years, and has been a source of tension between the Council and PSC. The PSC has frequently felt sidelined by efforts to address the crisis. An issue likely to be raised is the PSC’s request in September for a joint AU-UN Special Envoy for Libya. This follows a decision of AU heads of state and government during a 7 July meeting of the AU High Level Committee on Libya.
At the request of the A3 earlier this week (16 October), Security Council members were briefed on developments in Libya in consultations under “any other business” by Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo. Members discussed the idea of a joint envoy but could not agree on press elements, proposed by the A3, that would have taken note of the proposal.
Libya is proving a difficult issue in the current negotiations on the joint communiqué that is issued after these annual meetings. The host Council prepares the draft communiqué, and PSC experts were in New York earlier this month to negotiate it with Council members in the Council’s ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution of Africa, which is chaired by Ambassador Jerry Matjila (South Africa). Last year, the communiqué was adopted upon the conclusion of the joint consultative meeting. But this has been the exception in recent years, with communiqués issued many months later after protracted negotiations.