Tomorrow (31 May), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, both of which expire on 31 May.
The initial draft circulated on 25 May by the US, the penholder on South Sudan, proposes a one year renewal of the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts. It also proposes that six individuals, identified in an Annex, be subject to targeted sanctions (assets freezes and travel bans). At press time it was not certain whether this draft would be put to vote tomorrow, as it is unclear if it would receive the required nine affirmative votes to be adopted. Bilateral negotiations between the US and Ethiopia, which is hosting the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-sponsored South Sudan High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in Addis Ababa, were held today to discuss the draft, although the outcome of these discussions was not certain at press time.
If this draft is withdrawn or if it is put to a vote and not adopted, an alternative draft would most likely be adopted tomorrow simply renewing the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel, either for one year or a shorter period of time, without additional designations. The Council would need to adopt such a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel as well as the sanctions regime to avoid their expiration tomorrow.
The six individuals proposed by the US for a travel ban and assets freeze in the draft 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.
Two of the six individuals, Lueth and Malong, were also listed in the 23 December 2016 draft resolution (S/2016/1085) that sought to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and targeted sanctions on three individuals (the third individual was opposition leader Riek Machar). That draft resolution failed to be adopted, receiving 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).
Two rounds of negotiations on the draft were held on Friday (25 May) and Tuesday (29 May). Ethiopia, supported by several other members, including Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Russia, China and Kazakhstan, expressed its opposition to the timing of imposing additional targeted sanctions, believing that the HLRF needs more time to show results and due to the involvement in this process of individuals identified in the draft.
The third round of the HLRF, first convened in December 2017, took place from 17 to 23 May, and involved the continuation of discussions around governance and security arrangements begun at the second round in February. The parties were not able to agree on a power-sharing proposal put forward by IGAD, but did sign an addendum to the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians, and Humanitarian Access (ACOH) signed on 21 December 2017, requiring that the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body mandated to monitor violations of the ACOH, becomes fully operational. At press time, next steps in the HLRF process had not yet been announced by IGAD.
Several members who might otherwise be inclined to support additional targeted sanctions expressed reservations during negotiations about pursuing such measures unless the region is on board. These members have expressed the view that the position of countries in the region, most notably Ethiopia as a member of IGAD and convener of the HLRF, and regional bodies, such as IGAD and the AU, are critical in determining whether the Council should pursue targeted sanctions. While IGAD and the AU have made several statements recently in support of considering imposing sanctions against violators of the ACOH, and spoilers of the peace process, they have taken no concrete action imposing any such measures to date. On 22 May, the chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers released a statement saying it has received reports of “repeated and serious violations of the ACOH, which calls for urgent and appropriate action against the perpetrators” and announcing the decision to convene an extraordinary session of the IGAD Council of Ministers “to consider the punitive measures that should be taken against violators of the ACOH”. At press time, the extraordinary session had not yet taken place.
The resolution extending UNMISS’ mandate for one year, unanimously adopted on 15 March, expressed 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 ACOH. Further Council consideration of these measures in the coming months will likely be influenced by the outcome of the extraordinary session of the IGAD Council of Ministers; the assessment of Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), the chair of the Committee on South Sudan Sanctions, following her planned visit to the country in June; the actions and level of commitment of the parties directly following the most recent round of the HLRF towards a viable political agreement; the level of fighting and violations of the ACOH by the parties; and any next steps in the process announced by IGAD.
* Post-script: The US circulated a revised draft in blue (S/2018/515) to all Council members on the night of Wednesday (30 May). The draft in blue was adopted on 31 May, with nine votes in favour and six abstentions (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Russia). The resolution renews the sanctions regime and mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 July. It also requests the Secretary-General, in coordination with CTSAMM, to report by 30 June whether any fighting has taken place since adoption of the resolution involving parties to the ACOH and to report on whether the parties have come to a viable political agreement. It decides that if the Secretary-General reports such fighting or lack of a viable political agreement, it shall consider applying targeted sanctions to the six individuals identified in Annex 1 and/or an arms embargo within five days of the Secretary-General’s report. (The Annex of the resolution is the same as that attached to the initial draft circulated.)