What's In Blue

Posted Wed 29 May 2024

South Sudan Sanctions: Vote on a Draft Resolution*

Tomorrow morning (30 May), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing until 31 May 2025 sanctions on South Sudan—including targeted sanctions (assets freezes and travel bans) and an arms embargo—and renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee until 1 July 2025.

The US, the penholder on South Sudan, circulated an initial draft of the text to Council members on 16 May after discussing the draft with the Council’s other permanent members (China, France, Russia, and the UK). The first round of negotiations involving all Council members was held on 22 May. After receiving written comments from several Council members, the US shared a revised draft text on 23 May and convened a second round of negotiations yesterday (28 May). The penholder placed an amended draft under silence later that day. The members of the “A3 plus one” grouping (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana) broke silence, followed by China and Russia. The US subsequently placed the draft text in blue without a further silence procedure this afternoon (29 May).


Sanctions on South Sudan remain a controversial issue in the Council. Several Council members—including the P3 (France, the UK, and the US)—believe that sanctions are a useful tool to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and the roadmap extending the transitional period signed on 4 August 2022. These members hold the view that the arms embargo, initially imposed in July 2018 through resolution 2428, has contributed to the reduction of violence by curtailing the flow of weapons to South Sudan, and have expressed concern that the absence of an arms embargo would negatively affect the security situation.

China and Russia have long opposed the South Sudan sanctions regime, emphasising that sanctions have had a negative effect on building the capacity of the country’s security institutions. African Council members have also expressed concerns about the continued sanctions on South Sudan. These members maintain that the current measures could undermine progress in the political and security spheres. The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have repeatedly called for the lifting of “all punitive measures” on South Sudan and several regional states have expressed opposition to the arms embargo. In a 7 March communiqué, the AUPSC called on the international community to lift the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on South Sudan.

The Council last renewed the South Sudan sanctions regime through resolution 2683 of 30 May 2023. Last year’s negotiations were contentious, and several members—China, Mozambique, Russia, and then-Council members Gabon and Ghana—abstained. Resolution 2683 lifted the notification requirements for the supply, sale, or transfer of non-lethal military equipment solely in support of the implementation of the terms of the peace agreement, and related technical assistance or training on non-lethal military equipment. (For background and more information, see our 29 May 2023 What’s in Blue story .)

On 15 April, the Secretary-General transmitted to the Council an assessment report on the implementation of the benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577 of 28 May 2021 for modifying, suspending, or progressively lifting the arms embargo. The report found that the South Sudanese government has made some progress in the implementation of two benchmarks, namely formation of a unified command structure for the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for the Armed Forces on addressing conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). It added that progress on these two benchmarks needs to be enhanced without delay. However, no progress was noted on three benchmarks that relate to completion of the Strategic Defence and Security Review process contained in the R-ARCSS; the establishment and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process; and the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles. (For more information, see the South Sudan brief in our May 2024 Monthly Forecast.)

On 17 May, the South Sudanese authorities also submitted a report to the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee on progress achieved in the implementation of the benchmarks, pursuant to resolution 2683. This appears to be the first report submitted by South Sudan since the benchmarks were established.

On 26 April, the Panel of Experts assisting the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee submitted its final report (S/2024/343) to the Council. The report said that much of the R-ARCSS has yet to be implemented, highlighting that parties had not reached an agreement on the middle command structure of the unified army and police. It added that insecurity, including violence driven by land contestation, remains prevalent across much of the country, resulting in deaths, displacement, and human rights abuses. The report indicated that many political actors “retain both the means and the will to resort to violence if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a political process, particularly at the subnational level”. Accordingly, the report concluded that South Sudanese leaders need to take urgent and decisive measures to ensure that “divergent expectations do not fuel further tensions and strife in a political and security environment that remains highly combustible”.

Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue renews the South Sudan sanctions regime and reiterates the Council’s readiness to review the arms embargo measures, through, inter alia, modification, suspension, or progressive lifting of these measures, in light of progress achieved on the key benchmarks outlined in resolution 2577. It also requests the Secretary-General to submit an assessment report on progress achieved on the benchmarks by 15 April 2025.

This year’s negotiations were once again contentious and difficult. The US circulated the initial draft text without introducing any substantive changes to the sanctions measures. In line with their traditional position, it appears that the “A3 plus one” members, China, and Russia called strongly for the lifting of the arms embargo on the South Sudanese authorities, taking note of the progress achieved on some key benchmarks.

It seems that the penholder, together with a majority of Council members, was in favour of renewing the sanctions regime. While acknowledging advances by the South Sudanese government in implementing the revitalised agreement, some of these members apparently pointed to the lack of progress on other benchmarks, including the proper management of existing arms and ammunition stockpiles. These members also maintained that the benchmarks remain relevant and necessary.

During the negotiations, the “A3 plus one” members apparently proposed language to the effect that the measures enumerated in paragraph 4 of resolution 2428, related to the arms embargo, shall not apply to the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel, and to the provision of assistance, advice, and training to the South Sudan authorities. It appears that these members also suggested language, based on resolution 2714 of 1 December 2023 which lifted the arms embargo on the Somali government, calling on the South Sudanese authorities to take all measures necessary to improve weapons and ammunition management and ensure that imported military equipment, weapons and ammunition are not resold to, transferred to, or made available for use by any individual or entity not in the service of the relevant South Sudanese authorities. Similar edits were apparently also proposed by China and Russia. Based on resolution 2714, the “A3 plus one” members and Russia also suggested text calling on the international community to continue providing additional support to develop weapons and ammunition management capacity in South Sudan and encouraging partners to coordinate their efforts to support South Sudan in implementing the requirements of this resolution. These proposals apparently did not garner support from other Council members, who called for maintaining the arms embargo. They were not included in the draft resolution in blue.

In an attempt to bridge the differences, France apparently proposed language which expressed the Council’s intention to increase technical assistance and capacity-building to relevant South Sudanese authorities, in line with resolution 2428, on ammunition storage and armoury control, and further requested the Secretary-General to present to the Council, by 31 December 2024, recommendations on options for the UN to provide and coordinate such support in an integrated manner. However, it seems that the “A3 plus one” members, supported by China and Russia, requested the deletion of this language, expressing reservations about additional reporting requirements and highlighting undue focus on weapons and ammunition management. This language was therefore not included in the draft resolution in blue.

Some additions and amendments were made to preambular paragraphs, including language proposed by Switzerland recognising the need to safeguard due process, and fair and clear procedures for delisting individuals and entities designated under the 2206 South Sudan sanctions regime; text recognising that adequate preparations for elections are essential to prevent further violence and instability; and language calling on all parties, including the transitional government, to commit to peaceful electoral campaigning and refrain from all forms of destabilising activities, incitement to hatred, and violence. The draft resolution in blue also features language welcoming Kenya’s role in facilitating dialogue among “stakeholders” of the revitalised agreement, with the technical support of the Rome-based Christian Community of Sant’Egidio, with full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of women in this dialogue.


Post-script: On 30 May, the Security Council adopted resolution 2731, renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime until 31 May 2025 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee until 1 July 2025. The resolution was adopted with a vote of nine in favour and six abstentions (Algeria, China, Guyana, Mozambique, Russia, and Sierra Leone).

Several Council members made statements following the vote. In its explanation of vote, the US (the penholder on South Sudan), said that measures outlined in resolution 2731 continue to play a significant role in promoting peace and stability in South Sudan and the broader region. It added that the UN arms embargo remains necessary “to stem the unfettered flow of weapons into a region awash with guns”. The US also welcomed the continued support for the listing criteria, which includes actions that impede the conduct or legitimacy of free and fair elections, including pre-election preparatory activities. Algeria delivered a joint explanation of vote on behalf of the “A3 plus one” members (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana). In its remarks, Algeria said that the “A3 plus one” members abstained “based on [their] conviction that the time has come for the Security Council to make the necessary adjustments to the South Sudan sanctions regime to effectively support the efforts of the South Sudanese authorities to consolidate their state and protect civilians”. It further argued that the sanctions regime hinders the ability of the transitional government to create the necessary capacity to implement fully the outstanding transitional tasks, including effectively equipping the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF). Algeria added that the “A3 plus one” members “reject any attempt to use sanctions to exercise political pressure on African states”.

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