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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In September, the Security Council will consider the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the implementation of the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). It will also receive his monthly assessment of the deployment and future requirements of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) and impediments to UNMISS in carrying out its mandate.

The mandate of UNMISS expires on 15 December.

Key Recent Developments

Conflict between government and opposition forces has continued, exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe gripping the country. According to OCHA, some 6 million people, approximately half the population, are severely food-insecure. Some 1.89 million people are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and 1.97 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. Among the IDPs, approximately 218,000 people are being protected in seven UNMISS protection of civilians sites.

On 6 August, government forces seized Pagak, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition headquarters, which is located in the Upper Nile region near South Sudan’s border with Ethiopia. The government claimed it took the town while responding to an opposition offensive, while the opposition alleged that the attack was not provoked. At press time, the situation remained volatile as clashes continued.

Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016, is continuing. The Bangladeshi Construction Engineering Company has partially deployed to Juba, and the Nepalese High Readiness Company has fully deployed. The Rwandan infantry battalion began arriving in early August. Ethiopian troops who will participate in the RPF are expected to arrive shortly. There has still been no agreement regarding the RPF’s mandate to protect Juba International Airport, with the government consistently reiterating that it needs to retain control over safeguarding the airport. The government issued a warning on 20 August regarding the deployment of RPF forces at the airport, which it alleges is not consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement, and temporarily grounded UN flights, which were allowed to resume the following day.

On 23-24 July, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers convened its 58th Extra-Ordinary session in Juba, to discuss efforts to revitalise the peace process in South Sudan. At the conclusion of the meeting, the participants adopted a communiqué in which they urged “all South Sudanese stakeholders to embrace the objectives of the High Level Revitalization Forum for the Implementation of the ARCSS [the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan]”. According to the 12 June communiqué of the Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD Heads of State held in Addis Ababa, the purpose of the Revitalization Forum is to discuss concrete measures to restore a permanent ceasefire, to advance implementation of the peace agreement, and to develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transition period. The forum is expected to convene in early October.

From 1 to 3 August, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix visited South Sudan. He met with President Salva Kiir, First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai, other senior government officials, and representatives of UNMISS and UN entities. He also visited the UN protection of civilians site in Malakal, which shelters some 30,000 people. During a press conference in Juba at the conclusion of his visit, Lacroix underscored the importance of IGAD’s initiative to revitalise the peace process and said that efforts were being made to expedite the deployment of the RPF.

On 24 August, the Council was briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom, and Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairman Festus Mogae. Wane began by highlighting that enhanced cooperation with the government would be critical for the RPF to carry out its mandate. He emphasised that the security situation remains of serious concern and that July saw the highest number of access incidents reported by the humanitarian community of any one month since December 2013.

Haysom, briefing via video teleconference from Addis Ababa, focused on the current five internal and regional initiatives to restart the political process, none of which have, he said, so far produced a definite breakthrough. The government has created an appearance of reconciliation and linked these efforts to the national dialogue initiative, while calling for political actors to prepare for elections in 2018, he said. He emphasised that the prevailing insecurity, displacement, and lack of appropriate institutions or a reasonably level political playing field, in an increasingly divided ethnic environment, militate against organising credible elections within the year. The holding of elections in this context might well contribute to deepening and extending the conflict, he said.

Mogae, briefing via video teleconference from Juba, stressed the need for the government to resolve controversies with UNMISS on the deployment of the RPF. He discussed IGAD’s upcoming High Level Revitalization Forum, saying its success requires demonstrable political will by the relevant parties to be inclusive; clear consequences for intransigent groups, spoilers and violators; and commitments by the parties to adhere to revised timelines and implementation schedules.

Following closed consultations, Council members issued elements to the press condemning the fighting in Pagak, demanding that the government cease obstructions to UNMISS and the RPF, noting the temporary grounding of UN flights, and reminding all parties that the obstruction of activities of international peacekeeping may be subject to sanctions under resolutions 2206 and 2290.

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 36th session in September, the Human Rights Council is set to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in South Sudan, with representatives from OHCHR, the AU, the JMEC, the AU Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other stakeholders invited to participate.

Key Issues and Options

The central issue for the Council remains how to support IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process. Compelling the South Sudanese government and the opposition to implement a ceasefire and embrace an inclusive process has proved difficult.

Another issue is how much impact the deployment of the RPF, which is mandated to provide a secure environment in and around Juba, and other areas in extremis, will have on improving the security environment in South Sudan. While in Juba on 3 August, Lacroix maintained that the arrival of RPF units there would free up UNMISS units already in the capital to deploy to other insecure areas of the country.

Another key issue is how to encourage greater cooperation by the government and armed groups, including ending the ongoing violence against civilians, removing impediments to humanitarian access, and more broadly, working with UNMISS to enable it to fulfil its mandate.

The Council could consider adopting a presidential statement that:

strongly condemns violence perpetuated by government forces and armed groups in South Sudan and calls for an immediate ceasefire;

welcomes the communiqué of the 12 June IGAD Summit; and

emphasises the Council’s support for the High Level Revitalization Forum.

Coercive options that have been considered but not pursued because of divisions on the Council include an arms embargo on South Sudan, an assets freeze and travel ban on additional figures responsible for the ongoing violence (other than those sanctioned in 2015), or both.

Council Dynamics

The Council remains divided on its approach to South Sudan. There is no consensus on the degree to which the Council should welcome the national dialogue as it is currently presented by the government of South Sudan. Some Council members are concerned that a focus on the national dialogue may come at the cost of reviving the inclusive political process. Council members also remain divided over whether to incentivise cooperation by the South Sudanese government or whether the targeting of civilians by Sudan People’s Liberation Army forces necessitates a strong response by the Council to push the South Sudanese government towards peace.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan.

UN Documents on South Sudan

Security Council Resolutions
24 May 2017 S/RES/2353 This resolution extended the mandate of the South Sudan sanctions regime until May 2018.
16 December 2016 S/RES/2327 This resolution extended the mandate of UNMISS for one year and reauthorised the Regional Protection Force.
Security Council Presidential Statement
23 March 2017 S/PRST/2017/4 This statement emphasised the need for a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan.
Secretary-General's Report
15 June 2017 S/2017/505 This was the 90-day report on UNMISS.
Security Council Meeting Record
24 August 2017 S/PV.8030 This was a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom, and Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairman Festus Mogae.

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