What's In Blue

Posted Tue 14 Dec 2021

South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (15 December), the Security Council is expected to hold a briefing on South Sudan. Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Nicolas Haysom will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on South Sudan, which was issued on 7 December. A representative of the Permanent Mission of Viet Nam to the UN, the chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to brief on the committee’s work. Consultations are scheduled to follow the briefing.

The implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) is an expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. At the Council’s latest briefing on South Sudan, which was held on 15 September, most Council members called for the parties to accelerate the implementation of the R-ARCSS, particularly in relation to transitional security arrangements. These calls are likely to be reiterated tomorrow.

The deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) continues to be delayed, as the parties cannot agree on a unitary command and control structure and force ratios for the NUF. In a 9 December statement, Major General Charles Tai Gituai—the interim Chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (RJMEC), the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the peace agreement—reported that food insecurity and poor living conditions in cantonment and training sites have caused occupants to “abandon the sites in search of food and other essentials for survival [and] undermined the morale of security forces cantoned or in training”. Gituai further noted that the South Sudan government’s commission responsible for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) “remains unfunded and neglected despite DDR being essential to the unification process”. Members might be interested in hearing updates from Haysom on efforts by UNMISS and other international actors to mediate a solution to the impasse over the NUF, to support the unification of forces, and to assist the government with DDR processes.

Haysom may report on the work of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, which was reconstituted in late August. The Secretary-General’s latest report on South Sudan, which covers the period from 1 September to 30 November, observed that the assembly has “made minimal progress owing to delays in the formation of various specialized committees due the disagreements amongst the parties on the various committees’ structure and composition”. As a result, important legislation, such as amended security bills and the constitution-making process bill, has yet to be passed.

Members may be interested in learning more details about initial efforts by UNMISS to help South Sudan prepare for the national elections, which are scheduled for 2023 and would mark the culmination of the transitional period. (Elections in the country were initially set to take place in 2022, but government officials announced the elections’ postponement earlier this year.) The mission convened a meeting on the role of civil society in the electoral process on 30 September and 1 October. Haysom warned during his 15 September Council briefing about potential delays in election preparations, saying that “[u]nless there are adequate technical and political preparations, [the election] could be a catastrophe instead of a national turning point”. He therefore urged the Council “to issue every encouragement to those involved, including the international community, to focus their attention on that task”. In a 27 October presidential statement, the Council called on South Sudan’s leaders “to take immediate and effective measures to restore stability throughout South Sudan to facilitate the preparation and conduct of free and fair elections, as stipulated in the Revitalised Agreement”.

Another matter that may be discussed is the mission’s efforts to carry out its mandate to protect civilians. Haysom remarked in his 15 September briefing that the re-designation of protection of civilians (POC) sites as camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) has been “largely successful” and has enhanced flexibility for peacekeepers to engage in more long-range patrols and employ temporary operating bases. This, in turn, has enabled UNMISS “to provide a security presence and create space for political reconciliation in hotspots such as Tambura, Tonj and Koch”, according to Haysom. Members may be interested in hearing more details about recent activities undertaken by UNMISS to enhance the range of its protection activities.

The Council will also receive an update on the recent work of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee at tomorrow’s meeting. The representative of Viet Nam may provide an overview of the committee’s visiting mission to South Sudan in mid-November. The committee’s 15 October meeting with Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba may also be referenced. During that meeting, Gamba underscored the importance of fully implementing the peace agreement and the Action Plan to end and prevent all grave violations against children, which was signed by South Sudan’s government in February 2020.

Council members differ in their views on the viability of sanctions imposed on South Sudan. Some members believe that the sanctions regime is a necessary tool to promote peace in the country. Others are more critical. For example, at the 15 September Council briefing, China called for “lift[ing] the sanctions against South Sudan as soon as possible in order to effectively improve the environment for peace and development in South Sudan”, while Russia said that the sanctions regime would need to be reviewed as the “situation in South Sudan returns to normal”. In addition, Viet Nam emphasised the importance of reviewing the sanctions “with a view to lifting measures in the light of the progress achieved”.