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Posted Tue 14 Sep 2021

South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)

Tomorrow (15 September), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report on South Sudan (S/2021/784). Special Representative and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom and OCHA’s Director of Operations and Advocacy Division Reena Ghelani are expected to brief. A civil society representative will also brief. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

South Sudan marked ten years of independence on 9 July, and 12 September was the third anniversary of the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). The country faces significant political and security challenges related to delays in implementing the R-ARCSS, while the human rights, humanitarian, food security, and economic conditions remain dire.

The political, security and humanitarian situations in the country are expected to be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting. In relation to the political situation, Haysom may welcome the recent swearing-in of members of the Transitional National Legislature, which is responsible for passing new laws and reforms that will help advance the implementation of the R-ARCSS. In early August, 504 members of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, and 84 members of the Council of States, the legislature’s upper house, were sworn into office. However, among other things, Haysom might emphasise the need to expedite reform of the security sector, required under the R-ARCSS, including the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces, which has been repeatedly delayed while troops are struggling to survive in cantonment sites. He might also underscore the need to meet the target set out in the R-ARCSS for a minimum of 35 percent representation of women across all governance structures. He may refer to the four-day visit that Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix undertook to South Sudan from 9 to 12 September to encourage the implementation of the R-ARCSS. During his visit, Lacroix called on the parties to work together and increase momentum in the peace process to secure a durable peace.

In relation to the security situation, while the permanent ceasefire is largely holding, localised ethnic and intercommunal violence continues, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, which covers the period from 1 June to 31 August. Haysom may express particular concern over the resurgence in interethnic tensions in Western Equatoria State between the Azande and Balanda, including the high level of violence in and around Tambura since late June. According to a 14 September OCHA flash update, close to 80,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Tambura, with reports of civilians killed and wounded. A 10 September UNMISS news release on the situation in Tambura said that some 70 percent of those killed are believed to be women and children and referred to other grave violations of human rights. Haysom may note that in response to the violence, UNMISS has established a temporary operating base in Tambura. According to the Secretary-General’s report, UNMISS’ presence in the area has reduced tensions and enabled the provision of humanitarian support.

Haysom may also express alarm over internal disputes within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), including clashes in early August in Upper Nile State between rival military factions of the SPLM/A-IO. These clashes reportedly followed declarations by intra-party rivals of First Vice President Riek Machar that they had deposed him as the head of the party and its military forces. Council members may be interested in hearing an update on the situation and its effect on the implementation of the R-ARCSS.

Haysom may update Council members on the status of the permanent constitution-making process, which commenced in May, as well as the role of UNMISS in supporting the process. Election preparations might also be raised at tomorrow’s meeting. On 15 July, the Secretary-General sent a letter (S/2021/661) to the Council transmitting a needs assessment on creating an enabling environment for elections, as requested in resolution 2567 of 12 March, which renewed UNMISS’ mandate. Council members may seek further details on the findings and recommendations of the needs assessment, including a suggestion that an UNMISS-led integrated electoral assistance team be established immediately.

In relation to the humanitarian situation, Ghelani is expected to highlight the link between the conflict and the prevalence of hunger, and convey that 7.2 million people, who constitute 60 percent of the population, face high levels of acute food insecurity. She might also echo the findings of the Secretary-General’s UNMISS report, which noted that new displacements related to localised violence, extreme weather and livelihood pressures continue. Ghelani may add that the direct and indirect effects of climate change, including flooding and violence, which is caused by competition over limited resources, are intensifying the suffering of the already vulnerable population, as stated in the August newsletter of the South Sudan UN Country Team. The newsletter noted that the country has seen three years of unprecedented flooding, with last year’s floods— which affected 480,000 people— being the worst in 60 years. Ghelani might also express alarm over the increasing danger humanitarian workers are facing in South Sudan, as described in the Secretary-General’s report. Since March, there has been a rise in the number of attacks against aid workers, with four killed since the start of this year.