What's In Blue

South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (5 March), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in South Sudan and the Secretary-General’s most recent 90-day report on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which was issued on 26 February and covers developments between 1 December 2023 and 15 February (S/2024/188). Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief in the open chamber. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom is expected to brief during the closed consultations.

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. The original transitional period agreed to in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February 2023, while the extended transition period is scheduled to end on 22 February 2025, with first post-independence elections planned for December 2024.

The implementation of the R-ARCSS in line with the roadmap extending the transitional period is a likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s 26 February report notes that implementation of critical benchmarks outlined in the R-ARCSS remains behind schedule. Key issues that are yet to be determined include: the constitution-making process, the type and number of elections, the election timeline, voter registration modalities, an integrated election security plan, and an election dispute resolution mechanism. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s report notes that “an assessment as to whether a critical mass of compliance has been achieved will be made in April 2024”. (For background and more information, see the brief on South Sudan in our March 2024 Monthly Forecast.)

With less than ten months left until the national elections, parties to the R-ARCSS remain divided on election preparedness. While South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit maintains that the electoral timeline will be unchanged, members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) have expressed concerns about the lack of necessary preparations. In a 1 March press conference, the Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM-IO, Nathaniel Oyet Pierino, said that after evaluating the progress in the peace agreement’s implementation, the SPLM-IO’s political bureau has established that preconditions for holding credible, and free and fair polls are not in place.

Consistent delays in implementing the transitional security arrangements are another major concern for Council members. The Secretary-General’s 26 February report notes that while the gradual deployment of the first batch of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUFs) has continued, the deployment of the second batch of the NUFs has yet to commence. In an 8 February statement at the 34th plenary meeting of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the R-ARCSS, Haysom cautioned that the “inability to finalize the Transitional Security Arrangements remains a threat to peace before, during and after the elections”. In this regard, he highlighted that the parties need to agree on the middle command structure, to train and deploy the NUFs, and to advance the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) process in order to facilitate the commencement of security sector reform (SSR). (The R-ARCSS stipulates that the SDSR should provide detailed SSR policies and be conducted by a multi-stakeholder committee, which will include government officials, SPLM leaders, and an UNMISS representative.)

At tomorrow’s meeting, Lacroix may mention the 18-23 February visit to South Sudan that he conducted jointly with Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. This visit aimed to assess the implementation of the R-ARCSS and planning for the elections, among other things. During a press conference in Juba at the end of the visit, Lacroix underscored the UN’s continued commitment to supporting South Sudan, notwithstanding crises in other parts of the world that are “overwhelming the media landscape”, while Tetteh emphasised that elections “are not an exit strategy for ending a peace process”, but rather an “opportunity for people to focus their attention on the important task of nation building”.

On 16 February, the AU Ad Hoc High-Level Committee for South Sudan—comprising Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa—convened a ministerial-level consultative meeting on the margins of the 37th ordinary session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Governments. In a press statement released following the meeting, the committee, among other things:

On 27 February, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) considered the situation in South Sudan in the context of preparations for national elections. During the meeting, the AUPSC urged the South Sudanese government to intensify resource mobilisation to ensure a smooth electoral process; stressed the need to expedite implementation of outstanding transitional tasks; and emphasised the importance of comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and SSR programmes, among other things.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to express concern about the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, rising food insecurity, and worsening health situation. The 2024 Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan for South Sudan projects that an estimated nine million people, including refugees present in South Sudan, will need humanitarian assistance in 2024. It adds that an estimated 7.1 million people will require food assistance from April to July 2024.

Council members also remain concerned about the ongoing sub-national and intercommunal violence in the country. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s most recent report, UNMISS documented and verified 174 incidents of violence affecting 777 civilians, including 75 women and 55 children. The report notes that in order to increase operational reach, deter attacks against civilians, and secure main supply routes, UNMISS maintained four extended-duration temporary operating bases in Koch, Tambura, Maridi, and Jamjang. It adds that, following continuous fighting between Dinka Twic and Dinka Ngoc communities, UNMISS on 10 January coordinated a meeting between the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the Dinka Twic political and community leaders in Juba to discuss the underlying issues and find ways to de-escalate the violence.

Some members may also raise concerns about the high incidence of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and are likely to stress the need to ensure accountability and justice. A total of 39 CRSV incidents affecting 54 survivors, including 32 women and 17 girls, were documented and verified during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. Attacks on humanitarian workers and looting of humanitarian assets is another matter of concern for Council members. During the reporting period, 64 incidents related to humanitarian access restrictions were reported, 19 of which involved violence against humanitarian personnel.

Another issue that the briefers and Council members are likely to raise is the adverse humanitarian, security, and economic effects on South Sudan of the fighting in Sudan that started on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. According to data provided by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as at 25 February, approximately 577,294 individuals—including 116,541 Sudanese refugees, 4,318 non-Sudanese refugees, and 456,435 refugee returnees—have crossed into South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan. The Secretary-General’s 26 February report notes that the prevailing situation has “created conditions which could trigger conflict among communities, as they vie for access to essential necessities, dwindling humanitarian aid, and scarce resources”.

Looking ahead, Council members are expected to renew UNMISS’ mandate ahead of its 15 March expiry. Members are currently negotiating a draft text on the matter proposed by the US, the penholder on South Sudan.

Tags: , ,
Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications