What's In Blue

Posted Mon 14 Dec 2020

South Sudan: Briefing and consultations on UN Mission in South Sudan and South Sudan Sanctions

Tomorrow (15 December), the Security Council will be briefed on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan (S/2020/1180). Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy (Viet Nam), chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is also expected to brief on South Sudan sanctions. Consultations are expected to follow the briefings.

Lacroix will brief on political and security developments in South Sudan. According to the Secretary-General’s 90-day report, which covers 1 September to 30 November, there has been “incremental progress” towards the implementation of the September 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). This has included agreement on the allocation of state- and county-level government portfolios, although the appointment of officials to these positions has yet to take place.

Challenges persist with regard to implementation of the agreement, however. In this regard, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, refers in its most recent quarterly report covering 1 July to 30 September to a “lack of resources for redeployment of the Necessary Unified Forces, inter-communal clashes, persistent National Salvation Front attacks in the Equatorias, and limited efforts at tackling the Transitional Period tasks”. (The Transitional Period, which began in February, is expected to last for 36 months with elections scheduled 60 days before the end of this period). The RJMEC report concluded that none of the 187 activities anticipated during the Transitional Period—which focus on security and governance issues—have taken place and that two key pre-transitional tasks, namely reconstituting the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the completion of the security arrangements, have yet to be achieved, “with no clear timetable for them being accomplished”.

Lacroix may note that while the permanent ceasefire continues to hold in most parts of the country, there has been an increase in criminality and heightened sexual and gender-based violence. He may also refer to the “significant increase in violations of the Status of Forces Agreement experienced by UNMISS”, including the “exponential increase in the number of access denials of its patrols across the country”, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s 90-day report.

Members may be interested in hearing further details about the re-designation of three former UNMISS protection of civilian sites as internally displaced person camps (namely Bor, Wau and Juba), as well as the future role of UNMISS in relation to these sites. According to the 90-day report, UNMISS will continue to patrol in the vicinity of these sites; support the government in assuming its responsibility for the sites; support the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and “retain readily deployable quick reaction forces for emergency interventions”.

Sanctions

In his briefing, Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy may refer to the 31 October report from the Secretary-General requested in paragraph 5 of resolution 2521, assessing the role of the arms embargo in facilitating the implementation of the R-ARCSS (S/2020/1067). The resolution requested that the report include options for the elaboration of benchmarks to assess the arms embargo measures. While the report does not contain specific benchmarks, it presents options for developing such benchmarks, including a headquarters-based desk review, with or without remote consultations, and a field-based assessment mission. The Council may use the results of such a review to elaborate a list of benchmarks against which the progress of implementation of the peace agreement at the national level may be assessed.

Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy may also note that on 20 November, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee discussed the interim report of its Panel of Experts (S/2020/1141), also requested in resolution 2521. The report concludes that “slow implementation of the peace agreement has wide-ranging implications for the safety of civilians and stability of the country”. It further notes a lack of unity and high-level engagement by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and states that “focus from the region on the implementation of the peace agreement is required because of the three specific emerging security risks”, namely a breakdown in the chain of command of armed groups; the offensive in Central and Western Equatoria by the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (the government’s army); and the National Security Service’s acquisition of new weapons and training. It also finds that there is a lack of transparency and oversight in relation to how South Sudan collects and spends oil and non-oil revenue.

In resolution 2521, the Council expressed its readiness, in conjunction with its own mid-term review of the sanctions, to consider adjusting these measures, “including through modifying, suspending, lifting or strengthening” them to respond to the situation. At the time of writing, however, no outcome was expected on sanctions. The penholder, the US, apparently expressed the view that conditions are not currently conducive to putting forward a draft outcome on proposed benchmarks for consideration.

There are stark divisions on the Council regarding the utility of UN sanctions on South Sudan, which members may express during their statements tomorrow. While some members believe that the sanctions help to foster stability in the country, others have reservations about their helpfulness in the current context. Resolution 2521 was adopted with 12 votes in favour and with China, Russia and South Africa abstaining.  (For more details, see our What’s in Blue story of 28 May 2020.)