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South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (28 June), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the situation in South Sudan from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita. Council members will hold consultations following the briefing.

Keita will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report covering 17 February to 3 June (S/2018/609), as well as on more recent developments. A key focus of tomorrow’s briefing is expected to be the political process, including the signing of the “Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between parties of the conflict of South Sudan” earlier today.

The South Sudan High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) was last formally convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 17 to 23 May. It involved the continuation of discussions about governance and security arrangements that began in February but ended with the parties not able to agree on a power-sharing proposal put forward by IGAD. Since then, intensive consultations have been held in Addis Ababa in an effort to bring the parties closer together as well as attempts by IGAD to formulate a “Bridging Proposal” intended to outline a middle ground on the parties’ negotiating positions related to key governance and security issues.

After months of negotiations, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar met in Addis Ababa on 20 June for the first time in almost two years. The meeting was called for by a 31 May IGAD Council of Ministers communiqué, which requested that they meet before 1 July. Discussions continued this week in Khartoum and resulted in today’s signing of the “Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between parties of the conflict of South Sudan”. Along with Kiir and Machar, the agreement was signed by representatives of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, Former Detainees and other political parties. It was witnessed by the IGAD Special Envoy and members of the Troika (Norway, the UK and the US) with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as its guarantor.

The agreement contains several elements. It declares a permanent ceasefire within 72 hours, and states that the parties will “agree on all the ceasefire arrangements including disengagement, separation of forces in close proximity, withdrawal of allied troops, opening of humanitarian corridors and release of prisoners of war and political detainees”, also within 72 hours. The parties agree on a “self-monitoring mechanism” as part of the deal. The agreement 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” will be concluded by the end of the current round of talks in Khartoum. Following this, a transitional period of 39 months will commence, during which the country will prepare for national elections.

Council members will likely seek Keita’s assessment on the agreement concluded today. Some may ask about her views regarding the level of commitment of the parties to the deal and the potential pitfalls regarding its implementation. There may be interest in her input on what role the Security Council, UNMISS and the UN more broadly may have in supporting the implementation of this agreement. While members are likely to support the meeting of Kiir and Machar in principle, the need for a permanent ceasefire, and the signing of the agreement, some members may be cautious in their assessments of what this means for the peace process at this stage.

Keita is also expected to give an update on the mission’s efforts to address the dire security, humanitarian and human rights situation in South Sudan. Conflict intensified during the reporting period in parts of Unity and Central Equatoria, with government forces seeking to dislodge opposition forces ahead of the rainy season, when it becomes more difficult to travel over land. A Bangladeshi UNMISS peacekeeper was killed on 26 June, during an armed attack on a UN convoy that was supporting the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable civilians in the Central Equatoria region. Regarding the humanitarian environment, the Secretary-General’s report states that “South Sudan remains one of the world’s most challenging places to deliver humanitarian assistance”. It notes that six aid workers were killed between February and mid-May and that aid workers continue to face harassment, kidnappings and detentions in a country in which some 4.2 million people have been displaced since 2013. While members may reiterate their concerns at the impact of the conflict on civilians, they may also echo the call made by the Secretary-General in his report for the expedited publication of reported violations documented by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body mandated to monitor violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed on 21 December 2017. The CTSAMM has not released a public report since January.

Looking ahead, Council members expect to receive the report of the Secretary-General requested in resolution 2418 by 30 June, on whether any fighting has taken place since adoption of resolution 2418 on 31 May and whether the parties have come to a viable political agreement. The resolution decided that if the Secretary-General reports that such fighting has occurred or that a viable political agreement is lacking, 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 report. The six individuals proposed by the US for a travel ban and assets freeze in the resolution 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.

The signing of today’s agreement by Kiir, Machar, and other parties is particularly relevant to the Council’s consideration of targeted sanctions and an arms embargo. It remains to be seen what perspectives exist in the Council regarding whether today’s deal is a “viable political agreement” that could help forestall the Council’s consideration of the measures outlined in resolution 2418.

This matter will probably be discussed, along with the findings of the Secretary-General’s report requested in resolution 2418, when Council members hold consultations on South Sudan sanctions on 5 July. Council members will likely also take into account the assessment of Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, of her visit to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya from 16 to 26 June.

The Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, before their expiration on 15 July.

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