posted on Mon 17 Sep 2018 9:06 PM
South Sudan Briefing

Tomorrow (18 September), 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, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais. A civil society representative based in South Sudan is expected to brief as well via VTC. At press time, Council members were not scheduled to hold consultations following the briefing, although that has usually been the practice on this issue.

Lacroix will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report covering 4 June to 1 September (S/2018/831). His briefing is likely to address security, humanitarian, food security, human rights and economic conditions in the country, which continue to have a dire impact on civilians. Haysom and Wais will brief on recent developments in the political process, in particular the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will be Haysom’s final briefing to the Council in his current capacity. On 12 September, he was appointed Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), effective 1 October.

Lacroix’s briefing is likely to convey that although there has been some recent reduction in violent clashes, fighting has continued notwithstanding the cessation of hostilities declared in December 2017 and the permanent ceasefire agreed to in June. This fighting has been particularly prevalent in the Greater Upper Nile region and southern Unity, while the security situation in the Greater Bahr el-Ghazal and Greater Equatoria has deteriorated. According to the Secretary-General’s report, at least 19 incidents of ceasefire violations were verified by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) during the reporting period. On 15 September, a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) convoy came under attack while travelling in the town of Yei, in Central Equatoria. A Nepalese peacekeeper was shot and wounded by an SPLA soldier, according to a statement released by UNMISS. “This situation is evidence of a lack of command and control of armed forces which has resulted in unruly elements who continue to commit human rights abuses in the area,” Shearer said in the statement, adding that it is “disheartening that, despite the new [peace] agreement, fighting is continuing in the Central Equatorian region”.

In addressing the humanitarian and human rights situations, Lacroix may reference violations of international law such as the unlawful killing or wounding of civilians, arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, sexual violence, and the recruitment and/or use of children by armed groups, among others. He may also emphasise that almost 60 per cent of the population is expected to suffer acute food insecurity following the lean season, with conflict and broader insecurity further decreasing food production and access to food. The recent Secretary-General’s report maintains that for the third consecutive year, South Sudan remains the most violent country in the world in which to deliver humanitarian assistance. In this regard, Lacroix may allude to violence against humanitarian workers and assets, which increased during the reporting period.

Haysom and Wais will most likely give their assessments of the new peace agreement in South Sudan. The R-ARCSS replaces the ARCSS signed in 2015 and incorporates aspects of that agreement and the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, the 27 June Khartoum Declaration and the 5 August agreement on outstanding issues of governance and responsibility-sharing. It was signed by the Transitional Government of National Unity; the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/Sudan People’s Liberations Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO); SPLM Former Detainees; South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) and other political parties. It seems that four members of the SSOA have since expressed their rejection of the agreement.

As outlined in the first chapter of the R-ARCSS, there will be a “Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity” for a 36-month transitional period, during which Salva Kiir will remain president, Riek Machar will be first vice-president, and four other vice-presidents will be nominated by three parties to the agreement. Two of these vice presidents will be nominated by the Transitional Government of National Unity, one by the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, and one (a women) by the Former Detainees. There will be 35 ministers, ten deputy ministers and 550 members of parliament. The agreement includes details on establishing an Independent Boundaries Commission to consider and make recommendations on the number of states and their boundaries.

The second chapter, entitled “Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements”, includes provisions for the establishment of a Joint Transitional Security Committee to “plan and execute the unification of all forces” set out in the agreement. It also stipulates that the permanent ceasefire agreed on 27 June “shall be observed meticulously” and that a Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements workshop be convened in Khartoum within 14 days of the signing of the R-ARCSS.

Subsequent chapters of the agreement deal with “Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction”; “Economic and Financial Management”; “Transitional Justice”; “Accountability, Reconciliation and Healing”; and “Parameters of Permanent Constitution”.

Several UN and other international actors made statements about the signing of the R-ARCSS. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS David Shearer said that “the greatest challenges are yet to come during the implementation phase…The key ingredient still lacking is trust…From my discussions with all parties, suspicion is widespread. It is beholden on all of us here today to help encourage trust between parties.”

Members of the Troika (Norway, the UK and the US) similarly issued a statement expressing concern about the parties’ level of commitment and calling for a significant change in their approach, to “include, but not be limited to: an end to violence and full humanitarian access; the release of political prisoners; and a real commitment to effective and accountable implementation, demonstrated by supporting robust security and enforcement mechanisms, checks on executive and majority power, and the transparent use of resources for the benefit of all South Sudanese”.

Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the signing of the R-ARCSS as “a positive and a significant development” while calling on the parties “to fully and inclusively implement” it. He added that the UN “stands ready, in close coordination with IGAD and the African Union, to assist the parties in implementing” the agreement.

Council members share deep concern about the crisis in South Sudan and its devastating impact on civilians and, in this context, continue to be supportive of the role played by IGAD and the region towards a political resolution of the conflict. Some Council members are cautiously optimistic following the signing of the R-ARCSS; other members are more skeptical as to whether, when and how it will be implemented, and if it will translate into an improved situation on the ground.

Some members may emphasise the need to promote more scrupulous implementation of the R-ARCSS, given the continued violation of previous agreements. Members may consider what further role the Council can play in supporting the agreement’s implementation and assisting regional actors in achieving this objective. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s report states that “support and a display of unity of purpose from the Security Council, the African Union and IGAD to the peace process, coupled with incentives and disincentives”.