South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations*
On Friday afternoon (16 September), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report, which covers developments from 1 June to 31 August (S/2022/689). A civil society representative is also expected to brief.
This month marks four years since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Its implementation—which continues to be slow and selective—is an expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Other likely topics of discussion include the continuing sub-national and intercommunal conflict, high levels of conflict-related sexual violence, and the dire humanitarian situation in the country.
At tomorrow’s briefing, Haysom is likely to express support for the Agreement on the Roadmap to a Peaceful and Democratic end to the Transitional Period of the R-ARCSS, signed in August by the parties to the R-ARCSS, which extends the transitional period by 24 months, until 22 February 2025. Haysom may report that the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC)—which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS—approved the extension on 1 September after two-thirds of its members voted in favour of the proposal. He might note that the extension now requires ratification by the Transitional National Legislature (a body responsible for passing new laws and reforms that will help advance the implementation of the R-ARCSS), as required under the R-ARCSS. The Secretary-General’s report joins the AU and others in commending the parties on the roadmap, while stating that “concrete, tangible results are now imperative”. In this regard, Haysom may highlight tomorrow the graduation of the first cohort of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) in late August, after extensive delays, while noting that the full graduation and deployment of the NUF remains a key outstanding task under the peace agreement.
The Secretary-General’s report refers to plans by the AU Commission, UN and the Inter-governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) to establish “a joint task force to elaborate a strategy to mobilize support for the constitution-making and electoral processes in South Sudan”. Council members may be interested in hearing more about this as well as more generally about the roles played by the AU, and IGAD in particular. In this regard, the report notes that the UN will continue to coordinate with the AU, IGAD and members of the international community “to support the timely implementation of the recently agreed roadmap”.
The extension set out in the roadmap has been opposed by some actors in South Sudan, including several non-signatory groups and civil society organisations. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), People’s Coalition of Civil Action, South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), and National Salvation Front (NAS) have criticised the roadmap, contending that the extension is “a result of deliberate obstruction and lack of political will among the Government to implement the Revitalized Agreement”.
On 9 August, the members of the Troika on South Sudan (Norway, the UK and the US) issued a joint statement with the EU that acknowledged the announcement of the roadmap but regretted that the process leading to its finalisation had been “insufficiently inclusive”, including the limited time to review and comment provided to civil society organisations. In a statement issued on 1 September after the RJMEC vote, the Troika countries—which are voting members of the RJMEC—said that they “could not support the extension at this time”. The Troika added that the government needs to demonstrate its commitment to the implementation of the R-ARCSS, including by allocating sufficient funds to do so, before they could consider supporting an extension.
In relation to the security situation, Haysom is likely to highlight that sub-national and intercommunal conflict continues. Heavy fighting in the town of Tonga, Upper Nile State, in August led to the displacement of thousands, while cattle rustling and related retaliatory attacks in the Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal regions resulted in numerous casualties and the displacement of civilians, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. On 9 September, UNMISS released a statement condemning attacks against internally displaced persons who were seeking refuge at the Adidiang island site, near Malakal (the capital of Upper Nile State), adding that the attacks had triggered violent clashes at the UNMISS protection of civilians site, “where UNMISS personnel responded quickly to restore order and provide robust security on site”.
The latest report of the UNMISS Human Rights Division on violence affecting civilians, which was released on 3 August and covers the period between April and June, noted that 922 civilians were affected by violent incidents, marking a 15 percent decrease in victims compared with the same period in 2021. Sixty percent of civilian casualties are attributed to community-based militias and self-defence groups, while conventional parties to the conflict were responsible for 38 percent of civilian casualties. However, government and opposition forces have increasingly relied on proxy armed elements to engage in hostilities, the report says. UNMISS’ report also documents an alarming 218 percent increase in conflict-related sexual violence, including rape and gang rape (121 incidents, compared to 38 in the same period in 2021).
On 6 September, UNMISS and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a joint report documenting attacks against civilians in southern Unity State between 11 February and 31 May, which describes numerous violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It recorded the deaths of approximately 173 civilians and the abduction of 37 women and children, many of whom were subjected to sexual violence. The report documents 131 cases of rape and gang rape and notes that approximately 44,000 civilians were displaced. The violations were committed during clashes between government forces and their affiliated armed militias on one side, and elements of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO (RM))—loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar—on the other.
During his briefing, Haysom is also expected to emphasise that the humanitarian situation remains extremely difficult, with 8.9 million people in need and 7.7 million people estimated to face crisis or higher levels of food insecurity, according to OCHA. On 9 August, a humanitarian vehicle was attacked in Eastern Equatoria State, resulting in the death of the fifth humanitarian worker since the beginning of the year.
Council members remain concerned about ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence, high levels of sexual violence, and the economic and humanitarian crises in the country. Members also share concerns about the delays in implementing the peace agreement. In their statements, members such as Norway, the UK and the US, along with EU members, may be more critical of the extension set out in the roadmap and call for further evidence of the government’s commitment to deliver on the roadmap and the full implementation of the R-ARCSS.
**Post-script: The meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday morning (15 September). After the publication of the story, it was moved to Friday afternoon (16 September) because of a change in the Council’s schedule.