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South Sudan

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s 30-day assessment of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the deployment and future requirements of the Regional Protection Force (RPF).

The UNMISS mandate expires on 15 December. 

Key Recent Developments

Fighting has continued in South Sudan, despite the limited mobility imposed by the rainy season and notwithstanding the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Salva Kiir on 22 May, which has since been effectively discarded. The South Sudanese government has announced that its forces are besieging Pagak, the nominal headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), in the Upper Nile region. UNMISS has reported that over 5,000 civilians have been displaced from Pagak and that some humanitarian personnel have been forced from the town because of fighting.

Violence has been escalating in and around the UN civilian protection sites, where more than 200,000 people have sought shelter. On 15 July there were reports of fighting between youth groups within the UNMISS civilian protection site at Bentiu. The site contains over 120,000 civilians, and the fighting is a troubling reminder of the difficulties UNMISS faces in maintaining law and order inside the sites.

Deployment of the RPF, which was initially authorised in August 2016, is continuing, albeit at a slower than desired pace. To date, initial elements of the force headquarters—the Bangladesh Construction Engineering Company and the Nepalese High Readiness Company—have deployed to Juba, with the remaining forces to follow. Deployment of the remaining contingents continues to be delayed by difficulties finalising agreement with the South Sudanese government over the use of basing sites and securing the necessary clearances.

On 20 July, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane briefed the Council on the situation in South Sudan. Wane spoke about the ongoing fighting in the Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria regions, and noted with concern that President Kiir continues to replace opposition-aligned members of the nominal Transitional Government of National Unity with his own supporters or those loyal to Vice-President Taban Deng Gai.

Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairman Festus Mogae also briefed the Council, via video teleconference from Juba. Mogae reported on his interactions with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and regional leaders. Mogae discussed IGAD’s steps to revitalise the political process. On 2 July, the IGAD Council of Ministers agreed on guidelines and a timeframe for convening the High-Level Revitalization Forum, called for by the 12 June communiqué of the 31st Extra-Ordinary IGAD Summit. The forum is expected to convene in late September. Mogae also reported that he had visited former First Vice-President and opposition leader Riek Machar in South Africa and that Machar had refused Mogae’s request to renounce violence and declare a unilateral ceasefire.

Key Issues

The central issue for the Council remains how to support IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process, either by exerting pressure on the South Sudanese government and opposition to implement a ceasefire and embrace an inclusive process or by combining both incentives and disincentives.

Another issue is how to complete the deployment of the RPF and ensure that it enables the redeployment of other UNMISS elements to areas where civilian populations are most affected by ongoing violence.

The larger issue for the Council remains how to encourage greater cooperation by the government, including ending the ongoing violence against civilians and removing impediments to both humanitarian access and UNMISS’s ability to carry out its mandate.

Options

One option is for the Council to adopt 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 united support for the High-Level Revitalization Forum.

Another option for the Council is to impose an arms embargo on the country or an assets freeze and travel ban on key figures responsible for the ongoing violence, or both.

An alternative option is for the Council to attempt to incentivise the South Sudanese government to cooperate by offering conditional support, possibly including logistical support, for the national dialogue. Conditions might include implementation of a ceasefire, the government’s participation in a revived and inclusive political process, and confirmation that the national dialogue will have a neutral chairperson.

Council Dynamics

The Council remains divided over its approach to South Sudan. There is still 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 engagement with IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the 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 (SPLA) forces necessitates a strong response by the Council to pressure the South Sudanese government towards peace.

During the 20 July briefing, Council members welcomed IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the political process and emphasised the need for all parties to commit to implementation of a ceasefire and participation in an inclusive political process. The US reiterated its call for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions; however, there does not appear to be sufficient support for such action at this time.

The US is the penholder on South Sudan, while Senegal chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN

Security Council Resolutions
24 May 2017 S/RES/2353 This extended the mandate of the South Sudan sanctions regime until May 2018.
16 December 2016 S/RES/2327 This extended the mandate of UNMISS for one year and reauthorised the Regional Protection Force.
12 August 2016 S/RES/2304 This resolution authorised the Regional Protection Force.
Security Council Presidential Statements
23 March 2017 S/PRST/2017/4 This statement emphasised the need for a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan.
Security Council Meeting Records
20 July 2017 S/PV.8008 This was a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane.
24 May 2017 S/PV.7950 This was a briefing by the head of UNMISS, David Shearer.
25 April 2017 S/PV.7930 This was a briefing by Shearer.
23 March 2017 S/PV.7906 This was a high-level briefing on South Sudan.
Secretary-General's Reports
15 June 2017 S/2017/505 This was the 90-day report on UNMISS.
Other
23 December 2016 S/2016/1085 This was the draft resolution on an arms embargo and targeted sanctions that failed to receive the necessary support to be adopted. It received seven affirmative votes (France, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, the UK and the US) and eight abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal, and Venezuela).

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