What's In Blue

Posted Mon 7 Oct 2019

South Sudan Presidential Statement

Tomorrow morning (8 October), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) of 12 September 2018. The US, as the penholder on South Sudan, circulated the initial draft statement on 16 September. Negotiations were put on hold during high-level week. Following input from several members seeking more positive language, a revised draft was placed under silence on 30 September until 1 October. On 2 October, a further revised draft was placed under silence until 3 October. However, silence was broken by Russia and China. Following minor amendments, the draft was agreed on 4 October.

The initial draft statement was circulated ahead of the 18 September briefing, given by the Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the situation in South Sudan (S/2019/722)  and his report (S/2019/741) on “future planning for the protection of civilians sites” in South Sudan, as requested in resolution 2459 of 15 March (S/PV.8621). It was also circulated in the context of the Security Council’s planned visit to Juba in October, which will be co-led by the US and South Africa, as Council president for the month. The US and others see the statement as an opportunity to encourage positive and necessary progress ahead of the 12 November deadline for forming a transitional government, under the terms of the R-ARCSS. Its circulation coincided with the one-year anniversary of the signing of the R-ARCSS on 12 September 2018.

The statement underlines that one year on, “the R-ARCSS is an important step forward in the peace process that provides a window of opportunity to achieve sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan”. It recognises the reduction in political violence in South Sudan; the return of some representatives of opposition parties to Juba; and the recent meetings between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on 9 and 10 September in Juba. The statement also calls on senior leadership of the parties to the R-ARCSS to continue to hold regular face-to-face meetings.

How to characterise the pace of the implementation of the R-ARCSS was particularly contentious during negotiations. The statement “welcomes initial progress implementing the R-ARCSS, including the formation of certain R-ARCSS institutions and mechanisms, joint peacebuilding activities at the local level, and an improved environment in many areas for delivery of humanitarian assistance.” The initial draft additionally expressed concern over the slow implementation of critical components of the R-ARCSS, particularly regarding provisions on transitional security arrangements, “causing uncertainty around the peace process”. This was removed at the request of China, supported by some other members. Reference to the 12 November deadline for forming a transitional government was similarly removed, and was replaced with a call on the parties to “expedite the process” in relation to key outstanding tasks.

The statement expresses concern over the dire humanitarian, human rights and economic situation, as well as the ongoing conflict in the Equatorias region. It also expresses concern over the “continued use of sexual violence as a tactic by the parties to the conflict”; when Russia broke silence on 3 October, it sought the deletion of the inclusion of gender-based violence in this context, a request accommodated by the penholder.

The initial statement circulated by the US called for ten specific steps to be taken by the parties to implement the peace agreement and expressed the Council’s intention to review progress on these steps no later than 25 October. In the final  draft, revisions were made to these steps and the proposed deadline was removed at the request of some members. Reference to calling on non-signatory parties to renounce violence and for parties to the R-ARCSS to engage with these groups in a constructive manner was retained. Language calling on the parties to protect medical facilities and personnel as well as civilians and civilian objects, including schools and to allow humanitarian access, was also retained with some adjustments. As a compromise, the final draft states that the Council “looks forward to substantive progress on these activities during its October visit”.

The statement urges parties to continue taking steps to “promote the meaningful participation of women in the formation of a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity”. When Russia broke silence on 3 October, it sought the removal of stronger language in the initial draft that had called on the parties “to ensure the full participation of women”, a request accommodated by the penholder.

On human rights, the statement retained language from the initial draft emphasising the need to ensure accountability and end impunity for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. However, reference to the recent visit of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to the country, and ongoing violations and abuses that have been reported since the R-ARCSS was signed, were removed at the request of China.

While the initial draft welcomed the Secretary-General’s recent report on the protection of civilians sites in South Sudan (S/2019/741), the final statement only takes note of the report.

The draft stresses that “actions which threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan may be subject to sanctions” under the relevant resolutions. This reference to potential sanctions was opposed by at least one member, but was retained by the penholder. As a compromise, language was incorporated in the final draft stating that the Council will be “prepared to adjust measures contained in these resolutions in light of the implementation of the parties’ commitments, including the ceasefire.”

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