posted on Thu 7 Mar 2019 1:50 PM
South Sudan: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (8 March), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing from Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer on the situation in South Sudan. A civil society representative based in South Sudan is expected to brief as well. Council members will hold consultations following the briefing.

Shearer will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report covering 1 December 2018 to 26 February (S/2019/191). Shearer is likely to note that the overall security situation in the country has improved, but that challenges persist. In this regard, he may report that while the permanent ceasefire has been upheld in most parts of the country, clashes continue between government and opposition forces in the Greater Upper Nile Region and the Greater Equatoria Region. He may also tell members that intercommunal violence has continued, with a reported increase in attacks and cattle raiding since the beginning of the dry season.

On the political situation, Shearer may inform the Council that, as stated in the Secretary-General’s report, “modest progress” has been made in implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). While several opposition leaders are present in Juba and participating in meetings of the various mechanisms established under the R-ARCSS, activities of these bodies continue to focus only on procedural issues.  Deadlines are not being met with regard to the political and security benchmarks of the pre-transition period set out in the R-ARCSS, which is scheduled to end in May, and to be followed by the transitional period. Key benchmarks from the R-ARCSS that are supposed to be achieved before the end of the pre-transitional period are set out in the Secretary-General’s report and include: (a) reaching an agreement on a future vision for the security sector and establishing transitional security arrangements to create confidence among the parties, and enable the opposition to return to Juba; (b) adopting the constitutional amendment bill incorporating the R-ARCSS into the Transitional Constitution; (c) forming a transitional government that meets the agreed levels of representation of women and of opposition parties; and (d) concluding the work of the Independent Boundaries Commission. Opposition leader Riek Machar, currently based in Khartoum, has said he plans to return to South Sudan in May.

Shearer may further emphasise that sexual violence against women and girls continues at alarming levels. At the last briefing on South Sudan on 18 December 2018, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten told the Council that sexual violence “escalated dramatically in 2018”. On 15 February, UNMISS and OHCHR published a joint report which determined that at least 134 cases of rape or gang rape and 41 cases of other forms of sexual and physical violence occurred between September and December 2018 near Bentiu. Council members may be interested in hearing more about the response of UNMISS to “deter and prevent sexual and gender-based violence within its capacity and areas of deployment”, as set out in its mandate contained in resolution 2406. Regarding the human rights situation, some members may refer to the February report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/40/69), which  concluded that, despite the signing of the R-ARCSS, violations including rape and sexual violence continue to occur and may amount to international crimes, including war crimes. On 12 March, during its 40th session, the Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission and to consider its report.

Shearer is likely to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country. So far in 2019, some 5.2 million of the 7.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance were considered to be severely food insecure, according to the Secretary-General’s report. Shearer may further refer to the 1.87 million people internally displaced and 2.27 million people who have fled to neighbouring countries. In this regard, he may inform the Council of the returns that have been reported across South Sudan, as referred to in the Secretary-General’s report. Council members may be interested in further details about these reported returns as well as in the role played by the mission to foster return and reintegration across the country. As at 28 February, 191,238 civilians are in six protection of civilians sites located at UNMISS bases.

Tomorrow’s briefing comes ahead of the renewal of the UNMISS mandate next week, before its expiration on 15 March, which Council members are currently negotiating. In this regard, Shearer may seek to highlight the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, namely that the mandate remains valid and should be renewed for one year with the addition of language allowing the mission to support the implementation of the R-ARCSS and the peace process “in a nimble and flexible manner, including through the provision of technical assistance for peacebuilding priorities”. The report also recommends that “to respond to the positive growing trend of returns across South Sudan” the mandate be adjusted to “allow the mission to better support such returns, beyond those currently living in UNMISS protection sites, in a voluntary and dignified manner and to help make returns safe and sustainable.”