What's In Blue

Posted Thu 14 Sep 2023

South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (15 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 (S/2023/657), which was circulated to Council members on 8 September, and covers developments from 1 June to 31 August. Director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division Edem Wosornu and a woman civil society representative are also expected to brief.

Council members which have signed on to the “Statement of joint pledges related to climate, peace and security”—Albania, France, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the US—are expected to read a joint statement on South Sudan ahead of the meeting.

On 4 August 2022, all signatories to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) agreed to a roadmap extending the transitional period by 24 months to implement its key outstanding tasks. Crucial aspects of the roadmap relate to the unification of forces and their redeployment, the drafting of a permanent constitution, and the electoral process. The original transitional period agreed to in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February, while the extended transition period is scheduled to end on 22 February 2025, with elections planned for December 2024.

The implementation of the roadmap extending the transitional period is a likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Council members are expected to call for an immediate and full implementation of the roadmap within the agreed timeframe. Other likely topics of discussion include the effects of climate change on the humanitarian and security situation and the need for an inclusive political process. (For background, see our September Forecast Brief.)

On 11 September, the political bureau of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/ Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) met in Juba, to review and evaluate the status of the roadmap’s implementation. In a press release issued following the meeting, the bureau provided a detailed account of pending tasks from the roadmap and violations of the R-ARCSS in the past year.

In a 2 August press conference, Haysom noted that the country is not currently ready for elections, but “elections could be held on schedule if there is adequate political will, a practical political approach to the arrangements and commensurate resources are applied to achieving the benchmarks in the roadmap”. The South Sudanese government needs to make several critical decisions, he said, including regarding the type and format of elections, the census, voter registration, the inclusion of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the election process, and the establishment of relevant bodies and legal structures that can address election-related disputes.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Haysom is likely to emphasise the delays in implementing key aspects of the August 2022 roadmap. The most recent quarterly report of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC)—which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS—dated 22 July and covering the period from 1 April to 30 June, noted that critical pending tasks outlined in the roadmap either remained unfinished or have yet to commence, notably the passage of the 2023 National Elections Bill and the reconstitution of the National Constitutional Review Commission and the Political Parties Council. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s 8 September report notes that “[t]he non-functional status of the Political Parties Council adversely impacts the political process, as most political parties are operating without registration and there is so far no meaningful inter-party dialogue on the streamlining of the electoral process”. The report further states that the deployment of Phase I of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF), and Phase II training, scheduled to start in September and November 2022, respectively, have not commenced, despite repeated announcements from the South Sudanese government on this matter. At tomorrow’s meeting, some members may urge progress on the training and deployment of the NUF.

Haysom may also refer to the work of the “Government-trilateral (African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD], United Nations) joint taskforce for the implementation of the constitution-making and electoral processes”. According to the Secretary-General’s report, in a 27 July meeting of the joint taskforce, the AU, IGAD, and the RJMEC presented a “non-paper” at the request of the South Sudanese government, highlighting priority issues and decisions that needed to be agreed by the parties to the R-ARCSS to move forward with preparations for elections. Such issues included adopting the necessary legislation, reconstituting the relevant electoral bodies, and determining the type of elections.

Wosornu and Council members are likely to express concern about the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, rising food insecurity, and worsening health situation. According to OCHA’s 2023 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), 9.4 million people—almost 76 percent of the country’s population—will require humanitarian assistance in 2023, including 2.2 million women and 4.9 million children. A 6 September OCHA press release noted that “[d]windling resources amidst growing needs have forced humanitarian agencies to prioritize the delivery of vital life-saving support”, which risks leaving millions behind. In the same statement, the Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in South Sudan, Peter Van der Auweraert, said that “[w]ith international humanitarian funding expected to continue to decline, it is even more important for the Government of South Sudan to accelerate and increase its investments in basic services and support for sustainable solutions to address people’s basic needs across the country”.

Tomorrow, the briefers and some Council members might call for enhanced funding from the international community to support the humanitarian response in South Sudan. At the time of writing, South Sudan’s 2023 HRP, requiring $1.7 billion, was 46.4 percent funded.

Several Council members are expected to express concern about the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence and the high incidence of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Resolution 2677 of 15 March, which most recently renewed UNMISS’ mandate, directed the mission to ensure effective, timely, and dynamic protection of civilians under threat of physical violence through a comprehensive and integrated approach, and to maintain a proactive deployment and a mobile, flexible, robust, and effective posture. A total of 18 CRSV incidents affecting 21 survivors, including 12 women and eight girls, were documented during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. The high incidence of attacks on humanitarian workers and convoys in recent months is another matter of concern. During the reporting period, 104 incidents related to humanitarian access restrictions were reported, 53 of which involved violence against humanitarian personnel and assets.

Another issue that is likely to be raised by the briefers and Council members is the adverse humanitarian and economic effects on South Sudan of the fighting in Sudan that started on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group. The Secretary-General’s 8 September report notes that the influx of returnees and refugees from Sudan, the reduction of available resources, and weak infrastructure to meet the needs of arrivals have contributed to rising intercommunal tensions. The report says that there are growing concerns of congestion and overcrowding in Renk, Upper Nile State, which has received the largest number of arrivals. According to the report, UNMISS has been closely monitoring the effects of the influx of refugees and returnees on intercommunal tensions and competition over resources at the redesignated IDP camps to monitor early-warning signals.

According to data provided by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as at 12 September, approximately 260,653 individuals—including South Sudanese returnees, Sudanese refugees, and third country nationals—have fled to South Sudan as a result of fighting in Sudan. On 4 September, UNHCR revised its Regional Refugee Response Plan, noting that 600,000 individuals are expected to have fled Sudan to South Sudan by the end of 2023, and requested $356 million to address such critical priorities as onward transport assistance and lifesaving humanitarian assistance in South Sudan.

Although Council members share similar concerns about some aspects of the South Sudan file—including the delays in implementing the R-ARCSS and the worsening security and humanitarian situations—they have diverging opinions on such issues as 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 the country. These divisions can be expected to colour the discussions at tomorrow’s meeting.

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