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South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (8 May), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and the Special Envoy for South Sudan of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Ismail Wais. A civil society representative based in South Sudan, Jackline Nasiwa, will brief via VTC from Juba. Ambassador Joanna Wronecka of Poland, the chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, will also brief on the work of the Committee. Council members will hold consultations following the briefing.

UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Briefing

Lacroix is expected to brief Council members on violations of the Status of Forces Agreement or obstructions to UNMISS, as requested in resolution 2406 of 15 March, which renewed the mission’s mandate for a year, as well as on the situation in South Sudan more broadly. Fighting has continued in South Sudan despite the signing on 21 December 2017 of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) at the conclusion of the first phase of the High-Level Revitalization Forum convened by IGAD.

According to a 27 April UNMISS press release, a recent surge in violent clashes in Unity, Jonglei and Central Equatoria states “is having a devastating impact on thousands of civilians and on humanitarian agencies”, with civilians fleeing into swamp and bush areas without access to aid, including food, clean water and medical care. The press release further notes that UNMISS “teams on the ground are reporting incidents of killing, sexual violence, homes being burnt to the ground, cattle raiding, and the looting of hospitals and schools”. Two humanitarian workers were killed in April, bringing to 100 the total number of aid workers killed since the conflict began in December 2013. Also in April, 17 aid workers were released after being detained in Central Equatoria in two separate incidents.

Given the dire situation in several parts of the country, Council members will most likely want to receive further details of the challenges UNMISS faces in fulfilling its mandate as set out in resolution 2406, in relation to the protection of civilians; creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; monitoring and investigating human rights; and supporting the peace process.

Council members may also be interested in an update from Lacroix on the status of the independent investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into the allegations of sexual exploitation by some members of a Ghanaian Formed Police Unit in the Wau protection of civilians’ site, which was first reported in February. They may also want to hear more about the allegation of sexual exploitation in April by a member of the Nepalese contingent of UNMISS at the UN base in Aweil. According to a 24 April UNMISS press release, the mission deployed a Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Immediate Response Team to Aweil and reported the matter to the OIOS.

Wais is likely to provide an update on the various shuttle diplomacy efforts undertaken since the High-Level Revitalization Forum last convened from 5 to 16 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and ahead of the third phase of the Forum scheduled to take place from 17 to 21 May. The third phase, which has been postponed twice, is expected to involve the continuation of discussions around governance and security arrangements that were begun at the second phase of the Forum. At the conclusion of the second phase, the parties had divergent views on the issue of power sharing in the Transitional Government of National Unity (in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches) and on transitional security arrangements and the unification of forces. The government also refused to sign a Declaration of Principles, apparently over a clause calling for punitive measures against spoilers to the peace process.

IGAD has asked the parties to send representatives to attend a round of consultations in Addis Ababa from 10 to 12 May, to intensify the engagement with and between the parties ahead of the convening of the third phase of the Forum. Wais may also highlight recent developments related to the reunification of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). On 4 May, the SPLM endorsed the 2015 Arusha Reunification Accord and First Vice President and SPLM-IO leader Taban Deng Gai announced that his faction has been dissolved officially. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir also called for the return to Juba of opposition leader Riek Machar, and said that he guaranteed his safety.

The civil society briefer, Jackline Nasiwa, is an international lawyer based in Juba and the founder of the NGO Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, which works for gender inclusion, peacebuilding and reconciliation, access to justice, and good governance. Council members may be interested in hearing Nasiwa’s assessment of the High-Level Revitalization Forum process, in particular with regard to the involvement of civil society and women’s participation.

Sanctions Briefing

Ambassador Wronecka is expected to brief on the main conclusions and recommendations contained in the final report of the Panel of Experts (S/2018/292), provided to the South Sudan Sanctions Committee on 14 March, as well as on the work carried out by the Committee. On 11 April, the Committee was briefed on the final report, which concludes that “given the lack of political will to implement ongoing peace efforts, and absent robust pressure from the region and the international community, the situation in the country will continue to deteriorate, with enormous humanitarian and regional security implications”. It reiterates the recommendation that the Council impose additional targeted sanctions, also made in the interim report (S/2017/979), and “designate those responsible for the actions and policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of South Sudan”. It further reiterates the recommendation made in past Panel of Experts’ reports for the Council to impose an arms embargo. According to the report, “continuing large-scale human rights violations…are directly related to the supply of arms and ammunition to State and non-State actors”.

Wronecka may also refer to the briefing to the Committee by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict on 11 April. In that briefing, it was reported that violations against children had increased considerably compared to the preceding two years; that the recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict was endemic; and that children in South Sudan were being abused in a systematic and sustained manner that enabled the conflict to continue.

While the Council has not received a briefing on South Sudan since 27 February, Council members have been following IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process and are unified in supporting it. However, differences still exist over potential action that the Council could take to exert leverage on those who undermine the process, in particular an arms embargo or further targeted sanctions. Resolution 2406 expresses the Council’s intention to “consider all measures, including an arms embargo, as appropriate, to deprive the parties of the means to continue fighting and to prevent violations” of the CoHA. Further Council consideration of these measures will likely be influenced by its determination of the extent of violations of the CoHA and the level of commitment and progress made by the parties at the next round of the High-Level Revitalization Forum. Assessments as to whether the threat of an arms embargo is sufficient to compel improved behaviour by the parties in the present context will also be taken into consideration.

Looking ahead, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution on 29 May renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, both of which expire on 31 May.

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