Tomorrow (26 September), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing from David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairman Festus Mogae may also brief (via video teleconference). Following the briefing, Council members will hold consultations.
Shearer is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s 90 day report on UNMISS (S/2017/784), as well as on the monthly report on the challenges facing the mission in carrying out its mandate and the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF). Improving the operational effectiveness of UNMISS has been a key priority for Shearer since his appointment as Special Representative. Council members may be interested to hear from Shearer on his intended approach to consolidating and sustaining progress made by UNMISS to fulfil its protections of civilians mandate and to respond effectively to crises. Along these lines, Shearer may discuss obstacles confronting the mission—for example, restrictions on freedom of movement and the difficult security environment—and how the mission has attempted to mitigate the negative impact of these factors in fulfilling its mandate.
Shearer is expected to also update the Council on the progress in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), initially authorised in August 2016, and the challenges it faces. So far, approximately 650 of the 4,000 RPF troops authorised have arrived in the country. Ethiopian troops who will participate in the RPF are expected to arrive in October, followed by the remaining troops. Despite the South Sudanese government’s stated consent to the deployment of the RPF, critical issues have yet to be resolved, including continued government resistance to the RPF’s mandated role to support the protection of Juba International Airport.
In this context, Shearer met with President Salva Kiir of South Sudan on 6 September and emphasised the need for UNMISS and the government to work together and establish clear lines of communication. He also reiterated in the meeting that with the arrival of the RPF, UNMISS would be able to deploy more peacekeepers outside the capital, Juba. Shearer met with Kiir again on 15 September, before departing for New York. Council members may be interested in hearing more about these discussions.
Some members are likely to express concern about the dire humanitarian and security situation. The security situation in the country remains a cause for serious concern while the humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate. Despite the limited mobility imposed by the rainy season, violent clashes persist in several areas of the country, in particular in the Upper Nile region, including around the de facto headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition in Pagak, as well as in the Equatorias. According to OCHA, the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries now exceeds two million and another 1.87 million people are internally displaced. Although around 11,000 internally displaced persons have left UNMISS protection of civilians sites since the start of the year, UNMISS continues to shelter some 213,000 people at six sites. The situation for humanitarian aid workers remains extremely dangerous, with 18 aid workers killed since the start of the year.
Shearer may also offer his assessment following the two high-level events on South Sudan held last week on the margins of the General Assembly. On 20 September, OCHA, Norway and the AU convened a high-level humanitarian event on South Sudan. On 21 September, UN Secretary-General António Guterres co-chaired with the AU and IGAD a closed high-level meeting on South Sudan in the margins of the General Assembly to consider the revitalization of the political process in the country.
Mogae or Shearer will most likely provide an update on the national dialogue process and the various ongoing regional efforts to promote a political settlement to the conflict, in particular the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) efforts to revitalise the South Sudan peace process and the convening of a High Level Revitalization Forum expected in October. On 20 September, the AU Peace and Security Council released a communiqué after its 720th meeting stating that the IGAD-led revitalisation process represents “a last chance for the Parties, to really achieve sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan.” The communiqué said that if the parties continue to delay the full implementation of the August 2016 peace agreement, the PSC “will consider the necessary steps, including sanction measures, that could ensure effective and efficient implementation of the [peace agreement]...bearing in mind the assessment reports of the IGAD-led revitalisation process.” In this context, Council members may seek more information on the status of the IGAD-led revitalisation process and efforts being made to ensure its success, including participation of all relevant government and opposition actors. Former First Vice President and opposition leader Riek Machar reportedly sent the Secretary-General a letter on 14 September, which expressed his disapproval of the IGAD-led peace process, requested IGAD to relinquish its role as the lead mediator, and called for a new process aiming to end the war.
As in the past, Council members are expected to emphasise the need for commitments by the parties to be followed by constructive actions if the crisis in South Sudan is to be resolved. Such actions would include full implementation by the parties of their commitments under the August 2015 peace agreement, cooperation with UNMISS, and the permitting of unhindered humanitarian access.
Some Council members will most likely reiterate their support for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions. However, members continue to be divided over the merits of such additional measures and Council action in this regard is unlikely.