What's In Blue

Posted Mon 12 Dec 2022

South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (13 December), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing 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 September to 30 November. The Interim Chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), Major General (Retired) Charles Tai Gituai, is also expected to brief (via videoconference from Juba). Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), the chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to brief on the work of the committee. Consultations are scheduled to follow the briefing.

On 4 August, all signatories to the R-ARCSS agreed to a roadmap extending the transitional period by 24 months to enable the implementation of its key outstanding tasks. On 21 November, the reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (the legislature’s lower house) passed an amendment to the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, extending the transitional period until February 2025 and incorporating the roadmap into the Transitional Constitution. The implementation of the R-ARCSS, in line with the roadmap, 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 note that during the reporting period there was some progress in the implementation of the R-ARCSS, including in relation to the graduation of several Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) cohorts and the passing of crucial bills dealing with constitution-making and national budget issues. However, he may express concern that several initial benchmarks stipulated in the roadmap have not yet been achieved, including the reconstitution of the Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission.

The Secretary-General’s report notes that UNMISS, the AU, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)—including the RJMEC—have formed a trilateral technical task force on the constitution-making process of the permanent constitution and on electoral support. Haysom may refer to his 4 October meeting with IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu, in which they agreed to develop a plan on possible UN, AU and IGAD support to the peace process in line with the roadmap. He may also report that on 4 November, they agreed on “the terms of reference to guide future coordination of activities in support of the peace process”, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. Council members may be interested in hearing further details of these developments, including the planned coordination activities.

Haysom is also likely to inform the Council that the security situation in parts of the country has deteriorated due to intercommunal and subnational violence. He may describe the ongoing fighting in recent months in Upper Nile State between rival armed factions resulting in the loss of life, the abduction of women and the displacement of thousands of people. In a 7 December statement, the Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim, Peter Van der Auweraert, said that the violence in Upper Nile State has displaced more than 9,000 people and negatively affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance. He also noted that a significant number of people have reportedly crossed into Sudan, while others are hiding in swamps, and that more than 2,300 people arrived at the Malakal Protection of Civilians site in recent months.

Haysom may also refer to a report released on 16 November by UNMISS’ Human Rights Division, which found that between July and September, there was a 60 percent decrease in overall violent incidents affecting civilians (from 351 to 142) and a 23 percent decrease in civilian victims (from 969 to 745) compared to the same reporting period in 2021. The report attributes this largely to the decline in civilian casualties from the armed conflict in the Greater Equatoria region.

The humanitarian situation remains dire. On 3 November, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that hunger and malnutrition are on the rise in South Sudan, with some communities likely to face starvation if humanitarian assistance is not sustained and climate adaptation measures are not enhanced. A 3 November Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) indicated that about two-thirds of the country’s population (7.76 million people) are likely to face acute food insecurity during the April-July 2023 lean season, with 1.4 million children likely to suffer from acute malnutrition.

Some Council members may welcome the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) with South Sudan. On 26 October, the PBC held its first meeting on South Sudan, which was followed by a trip to the country, between 6 and 9 December, by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Elizabeth Spehar together with the PBC Chair, Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith (Bangladesh).

In his briefing to the Council, Gituai may refer to the RJMEC’s most recent quarterly report (covering 1 July to 30 September). It noted that the extension of the transitional period agreed to in the roadmap “is indicative of the slow progress in the implementation of the R-ARCSS that has plagued the Agreement since its signing in September 2018”. The report said that the unification of forces remains “the most critical activity” and called for the immediate graduation and deployment of all the NUF. The report added that the government “should avoid falling behind in the implementation of the tasks specifically outlined within the roadmap” and called for the passage of relevant bills, particularly the Permanent Constitution-Making Process Bill. Gituai last briefed the Council on 7 March and proposed a series of recommendations. These included encouraging the Council to consider visiting South Sudan and to request that the RJMEC brief the Council regularly on the status of implementation of the R-ARCSS. (The last Council visiting mission to South Sudan took place in 2019.)

In his briefing on the work of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, Biang may note that the committee held informal consultations on 18 November to receive a briefing from the Panel of Experts on its interim report. The report, published on 1 December, describes “widespread subnational violence, pervasive human rights abuses, including endemic and systemic conflict-related sexual violence, and humanitarian and economic crises that have combined to leave most of the population reeling from successive and compounding shocks”. It also highlights that “key humanitarian indicators, most notably food security, are at their worst levels since the achievement of independence”. The report expresses concern that despite the graduation of some NUF there is no clarity on their deployment and that “fragmentation, not unification, is the prevailing force beyond Juba”.

Council members remain concerned about the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence, the 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 Council members, may be more critical of the extension set out in the roadmap and may call on the government to demonstrate its commitment to implementing the R-ARCSS in line with the deadlines set out in the roadmap.

At the last briefing on South Sudan, which was held on 16 September, the US said that it was “highly disappointed that South Sudan’s leaders extended the transitional period, thereby once again extending their own time and power, despite failing over the past four years to deliver fully on the commitments they made in the [R-ARCSS]”. Conversely, in a joint statement, the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya) welcomed “the gradual implementation of the [R-ARCSS] that has been witnessed over the past four years, despite the challenges” and commended the signing of the roadmap.

Differences of view on issues such as how to depict the situation on the ground in South Sudan, the extent to which the Council can and should apply pressure on the parties to fully implement the R-ARCSS in line with the roadmap, the utility of sanctions, and the effects of climate change on the situation in South Sudan continue to colour Council dynamics on this file.

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