The UN security Council to discuss South Sudan on Friday

Source: What’s in Blue

Tomorrow morning the Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Sudan and South Sudan and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Haile Menkerios, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan and head of the UN Office to the AU, is expected to brief on Sudan/South Sudan issues, while Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS Hilde Johnson will likely brief on UNMISS and the situation in South Sudan. At press time, Council members were not considering any outcome following the meeting but this could change given the fluidity and seriousness of the situation in South Sudan.

Menkerios is likely to discuss the regional dimensions of the South Sudan conflict. Members will be interested in learning more about the substance of the talks that took place between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in Juba on 6 January, as well as the follow up visit of Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin to Khartoum that has been planned. Media reports initially suggested that Bashir and Kiir were negotiating the creation of a joint force to defend oil fields in South Sudan near the border with Sudan from the rebels, but these reports were subsequently dismissed by the parties. It has also been reported that Sudan would deploy some 900 oil technicians to South Sudan to work in the oil fields, pending South Sudan’s approval. Details about this prospective plan remain sketchy and might be a topic of discussion tomorrow.

Since the crisis in South Sudan erupted on 15 December 2013, there has been heavy fighting in oil producing areas of Unity and Upper Nile states, and the rebels are currently in control of Bentiu, the capital of Unity state. In Council consultations on 30 December 2013, Johnson apparently reported the shutdown of oil production in some areas due to the fighting.

Given that Council members recognise that this is a political crisis that has spun out of control, they will be keen to receive an update on the status of negotiations in Addis Ababa between representatives loyal to the government of South Sudan and those aligned with former Vice-President Riek Machar. After several postponements, the parties finally met for face-to-face negotiations on 7 January. Two key issues on the agenda are the call for a cessation of hostilities, a request that has been reiterated by the Council since the start of the crisis, and the release of political prisoners detained by Kiir at the onset of the fighting. At press time, media reports indicate that Kiir remains unwilling to release the detainees. Council members will be interested in whether any progress has been made on these matters.

Involvement by Uganda in the fighting on the side of government forces has been reported in the media, and there may be interest in greater clarity on the extent of this involvement. In addition to defending the airport in Juba, there have been reports that Uganda has conducted aerial bombings of rebel positions in Bor, an allegation denied by Kampala. While Uganda is part of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is now mediating between the parties, President Yoweri Museveni has openly expressed support for Kiir, claiming that IGAD would militarily defeat Machar’s forces if they did not agree to a ceasefire. (Other key IGAD states, notably Ethiopia and Kenya, have thus far demonstrated a preference for a diplomatic approach, although some have questioned IGAD’s impartiality as a mediator, especially in light of Museveni’s position).

Johnson’s briefing will likely focus largely on the implementation of resolution 2132 of 24 December 2013, as the Council requested the Secretariat to report on this implementation within 15 days and at least every 30 days afterward. In this respect, she will probably discuss UNMISS’s efforts in protecting civilians, in facilitating humanitarian assistance, and in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations. To enhance UNMISS’s ability to perform these tasks, resolution 2132 authorised an increase in UNMISS’s troop ceiling from 7,000 to 12,500 and the police ceiling from 900 to 1,323—as well as the deployment of additional force enablers and multipliers—through inter-mission cooperation. As such, Council members will probably be interested in Johnson’s input on the status of the deployment of the additional personnel and equipment, as well as the challenges faced in this process.

During a meeting with UNMISS troop- and police-contributing countries on 7 January, several operational challenges facing UNMISS were raised by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support Ameerah Haq that may be revisited in tomorrow’s consultations. For example, it appears that the government of South Sudan has been preventing helicopter flights to areas under rebel control, notably Bor in Jonglei state, possibly for fear that equipment could be confiscated by the rebels. Additionally, another concern raised at yesterday’s meeting by the Secretariat is the need for incoming troops and police to be self-reliant with 60 days of rations, tents (to provide shelter), and other equipment given the difficult conditions on the ground and the resource constraints facing UNMISS.

Regarding the situation in UN camps across the country hosting internally displaced persons, members will likely want to know what efforts have been made to strengthen security around the camps and how this security can be improved, as approximately 60,000 people are being protected in these facilities. Additionally, as a result of the overcrowding and difficult sanitary conditions in several of these camps, there is the potential for a cholera outbreak, and members may be interested in what steps the mission, in collaboration with its humanitarian partners, has taken and will be able to take moving forward to reduce the possibility of such an outbreak.