On Thursday (5 July), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is scheduled to brief Council members in consultations on South Sudan.
Lacroix’s briefing will focus on the Secretary-General’s assessment (S/2018/653) of the security and political situation in South Sudan, requested by resolution 2418 (31 May), which renewed the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 July. In particular, resolution 2418 requested the Secretary-General, in coordination with the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), to report by 30 June on whether any fighting has taken place involving parties to the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) and on whether the parties “have come to a viable political agreement”. It further decided that if the Secretary-General reports that fighting has continued and that a viable political agreement has not been achieved, the Council shall consider applying targeted sanctions (a travel ban and assets freeze) to the six individuals identified in the annex to the resolution and/or an arms embargo within five days of the Secretary-General’s assessment.
The US, the penholder on South Sudan, drafted resolution 2418, proposing the six names listed in the annex. They are: Koang Rambang Chol, a high-ranking opposition military official; Kuol Manyang Juuk, South Sudan’s Defence Minister; Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, the former Deputy Chief of Staff of South Sudan’s army; Martin Elia Lomuro, South Sudan’s Cabinet Affairs Minister; Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Information Minister; and Paul Malong Awan, the former Chief of Staff of South Sudan’s army turned rebel leader.
On 29 June, Council members received the Secretary-General’s assessment. It observes that there had been credible reports of fighting taking place involving parties to the peace agreement during the 21 May to 27 June reporting period, and that UNMISS ha[d] documented “gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, particularly in central and southern Unity”. It further notes that that UNMISS patrols came under direct fire three times during the reporting period.
A 27 June CTSAMM report (2018/21) is attached to the assessment as an annex, as UNMISS requested that CTSAMM coordinate and share its verified reports in preparation of the assessment. (CTSAMM is mandated to monitor violations of the CoHA, but had not released a public report since January.) The CTSAMM report says that there have been 11 verified incidents of fighting between the parties since 1 June, with 12 other potential incidents under investigation.
On progress towards a viable political agreement, the assessment focuses on the 27 June signing of the “Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between parties of the conflict of South Sudan” by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar. The declaration contains several elements. It declares a permanent ceasefire within 72 hours and invites IGAD and AU member states to deploy the necessary forces to supervise the ceasefire. It states that security arrangements adopted will “aim at building national army [sic] and other security organs of an all-inclusive character” and that a “Revised Bridging Proposal”—intended to outline a middle ground on the parties’ negotiating positions related to key governance and security issues—will be concluded by the end of the current round of talks in Khartoum. Following this, a pre-transitional period of 120 days will be followed by a transitional period of 36 months, during which the country will prepare for national elections.
The current round of talks between Kiir and Machar in Khartoum is set to conclude at the end of this week. A further round of talks between them, planned for next week in Nairobi, Kenya, is expected to be facilitated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Secretary-General’s assessment states that “the recent progress made in Khartoum gives cause for reasonable optimism”. However, it cautions that “the outcome of regional and international efforts to deliver a political settlement of the conflict is yet unclear”, adding that “any revitalized agreement must be inclusive, fair and sustainable” and noting that its implementation “will require the continued political engagement of the Security Council”.
Following the briefing from Lacroix, Council members are expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s assessment and developments over the past month, including reports of fighting since the coming into effect of the permanent ceasefire on Saturday (30 June). Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, may provide an overview of her visit to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya from 16 to 26 June.
Council members may also discuss the upcoming adoption of a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, scheduled for 12 July. These discussions are likely to include consideration of applying targeted sanctions (a travel ban and assets freeze) to the six individuals identified in the annex to resolution 2418 and/or an arms embargo.
The circumstances and timing around imposing additional targeted sanctions were areas of disagreement during the negotiations of resolution 2418. The resolution was adopted with only nine votes in favour and six abstentions (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia). (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 30 May.) Several members who might otherwise be inclined to support additional targeted sanctions expressed reservations about pursuing such measures, without support from the region. In this regard, they placed importance on the views of Ethiopia, as a member of IGAD and convener of the High-Level Revitalization Forum, and regional bodies, such as IGAD and the AU.
While IGAD had expressed its willingness to consider coercive measures against those who obstruct the peace process and violate the CoHA, its position has evolved in light of recent developments on the political front. The IGAD Council of Ministers issued a press release on 30 June, following a meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on the side lines of the 31st Ordinary Summit of the AU, stating that “given the latest developments in the peace process and the need to implement the permanent ceasefire and achieve an inclusive peace agreement, it is not helpful to pursue punitive measures at this stage”.
The Council is likely to renew the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts on 12 July without difficulty, assuming that the US does not also try to impose an arms embargo and/or pursue additional targeted sanctions. If the US attempts to pursue additional targeted sanctions and/or an arms embargo, it would likely encounter strong resistance from some members, and it is unclear whether such an initiative would receive the required nine votes to be successful. An intermediate option would be to reiterate the threat of coercive measures should the parties fail to take particular steps, while stopping short of imposing such measures at this time.