Situation in South Sudan – Report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/491)

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2459 (2019), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 15 March 2020 and requested me to report on the implementation of the Mission’s mandate every 90 days. It covers political and security developments between 27 February and 28 May 2019, the humanitarian and human rights situation, and progress in the implementation of the Mission’s mandate.

II. Political and economic developments

2. During the reporting period, the slow implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan compounded uncertainty around the peace process. Just prior to 12 May 2019, the end date of the eight-month pre-transition period, the South Sudanese parties unanimously agreed to a six-month extension of the pre-transition period to enable the implementation of critical prerequisites for the transition, including the resolution of the number of states and their boundaries; the review and drafting of key legislation; the incorporation of the Revitalized Agreement into the Transitional Constitution; and the cantonment, training and redeployment of unified forces.

Implementation of the Revitalized Agreement

3. During the period leading up to 12 May, the parties continued to engage with one another within the implementation organs of the Revitalized Agreement. However, discussions predominantly focused on procedure. On 28 February, the Independent Boundaries Commission began its work with the full complement of the members of the African Union High-level Ad Hoc Committee on South Sudan (Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa). Between 18 March and 11 April, the Independent Boundaries Commission held three procedural meetings, adopting its terms of reference, rules of procedure, workplan and budget. Meanwhile, on 27 March, the Technical Boundary Committee submitted its final report on tribal boundaries and current disputes to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The report was subsequently forwarded to the Independent Boundaries Commission for consideration. Owing to the enormity of the task assigned to the Independent Boundaries Commission under the Revitalized Agreement, the Independent Boundaries Commission was unable to complete its work prior to the transition deadline of 12 May. As at 19 May, the Independent Boundaries Commission had completed its fieldwork inside the country and was preparing for consultations with refugees in neighbouring countries, after which it will compile its report and recommendations.

4. The National Constitutional Amendment Committee finalized draft amendments of security laws, including the 2009 Sudan People’s Liberation Army Act, the 2009 Police Service Act, the 2011 Prison Service Act and the 2011 Wildlife Service Act. On 9 April, the amendments were presented to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, where they remain pending review. The draft bill to incorporate the Revitalized Agreement into the Transitional Constitution is also with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and has yet to be presented to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, which reconvened on 14 May after going into recess on 21 December 2018. Meanwhile, the pro-Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) continues to contest the draft bill’s description of the system of governance (decentralized versus devolved) and the amendment process. The National Constitutional Amendment Committee is currently considering an amendment to the 2012 Political Parties Act.

5. Advances in transitional security measures and security sector reform remained limited. The process continued to lack clarity and coordination regarding the prioritization and sequencing of tasks. On 26 March, the Chair of the National Pre-Transitional Committee, Tut Gatluak, directed the security-related mechanisms of the Revitalized Agreement, including the Joint Defence Board, the Strategic Defence and Security Review Board and the Joint Military Security Committee, to command all relevant security forces to assemble at designated training and cantonment sites. However, no cantonment took place. With the end of the pre-transition period nearing, the Joint Defence Board announced the formation and training of a 700-strong joint protection force for very important persons, which would provide security to government officials. While 350 members of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces reported to the Rajaf training site, no troop contributions were made by the pro-Machar SPLM/A-IO or the South Sudan Opposition Alliance.

6. Despite such delays, rapprochement efforts between the Government and the pro-Machar SPLM/A-IO continued at the subnational level. Confidence-building meetings were held in Gbudwe, Tambura, Terekeka, Torit, Central Upper Nile, Yei River, Lol and Wau. Peace celebrations took place in Torit, Gbudwe, Tambura and Southern Liech. Joint visits were also conducted to areas affected by the conflict in Gbudwe, and exchange visits to areas in Northern Liech. These engagements, which mostly involved local-level stakeholders, have contributed to the opening of roads and riverine routes, increased movement of civilians, enhanced commercial trade and reduced commodity prices in some areas. In Wau, for example, multiple checkpoints have been removed and illegal taxation and harassment have been curbed. Increased cooperation in Gbudwe, Kapoeta and Torit has led to commitments to address other security challenges, including criminality and cattle raiding.

7. Meanwhile, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism met regularly to discuss adherence to the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements. While the parties continue to cooperate with the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, it has been denied access on 24 occasions, including in Aweil, Juba, Bentiu, Yei, Wau and Yambio. Of these, 13 were verification denials and 11 access denials.

8. The IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais, also continued his outreach to key individuals and groups outside the peace process. The Special Envoy met with the leader of the South Sudan United Front/Army, General Paul Malong, from 11 to 13 March. Given General Malong’s willingness to join the peace process, efforts are under way to facilitate negotiations with the incumbent Government. The Special Envoy also met with the leader of the National Salvation Front and the umbrella group South Sudan National Democratic Alliance, Thomas Cirillo, on 8 and 14 March. These talks did not yield much, with the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance continuing to demand the renegotiation of the Revitalized Agreement, calling for a lean government, ten states and a federal system.

9. Meanwhile, the leadership dispute within the South Sudan Opposition Alliance continued to test the bloc’s cohesion and impede progress towards the implementation of certain aspects of the Revitalized Agreement, including the nomination of a Vice-President and the completion of the allocation of ministerial portfolios. The IGAD Special Envoy and the South Sudan Council of Churches continued to engage with members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance to reconcile the bloc. On 15 April, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance suffered yet another complication with the death of the leader of the South Sudan United Movement and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, Peter Gatdet.

10. The reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission met four times during the reporting period. On 12 April, the interim Chair said that 32 of the 59 tasks to be completed during the pre-transition period were ongoing or pending. The disengagement of forces, the demilitarization of civilian centres, the cantonment, training and unification of forces, the determination of the number and the boundaries of states, and the composition and restructuring of the Council of States were identified as the most critical ongoing or pending tasks. Given the shortfalls in the implementation of the tasks and the fact that the end of the pre -transition period was approaching fast, the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission urged IGAD and the parties to meet as soon as possible to agree on the way forward.

11. Several initiatives were undertaken to avert a setback to the peace process. On 9 and 10 April, the Vatican hosted a spiritual retreat for the South Sudan presidency. In attendance were the President, Salva Kiir, the First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai, Rebecca Garang and Riek Machar. Absent were the Vice-President, James Wani Igga, who remained in Juba to maintain a government presence, and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, which failed to agree on a representative to send. The retreat focused on reconciliation and was facilitated by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

12. On 2 May, the IGAD Special Envoy convened a meeting of the signatory parties in Addis Ababa to discuss the status of the Revitalized Agreement and the way forward. Following two days of talks, during which the parties identified the lack of political will and adequate funding as key impediments to progre ss, the parties unanimously agreed to extend the pre-transition period by six months. This decision was premised on the need to complete the necessary transitional security arrangements, including protection for senior government officials, to form the transitional Government. Meanwhile, the Government also pledged $100 million to expedite the implementation of the pending tasks.

13. Following the decision to extend the pre-transitional period, the sixty-seventh extraordinary session of the IGAD Council of Ministers was held in Juba on 7 May. In the communique of the session, the Council of Ministers endorsed the six-month extension; called for the completion of the pending tasks within that additional period, which was non-renewable; and authorized the IGAD Special Envoy to undertake one final round of engagement with the non-signatory groups to persuade them to join the Revitalized Agreement. The Council of Ministers decided to meet with the parties every two months to review progress on the pending tasks and recommended that a summit of IGAD Heads of State and Government be convened. It also recommended that all restrictions against Riek Machar be lifted. While the parties and IGAD succeeded in averting a deadlock over the beginning of the transition period, statements by President Kiir on 9 May regarding his preference for a 12-month extension and accusations and threats about the mobilization of forces raised doubts about the goodwill of the parties to work together.

14. Nevertheless, on 10 and 11 May, the IGAD Special Envoy and the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission held a workshop on joint security mechanisms in Juba to develop a road map and implementation schedule for the critical security tasks to be completed within the next six months. On 17 May, the Joint Transitional Security Committee also met to discuss draft curricula for training the 83,000 Unified Necessary Forces earmarked for creation during the pre-transitional period. The Strategic Defence and Security Review Board also met on 20 and 21 May.

15. During this tense period, I remained in close contact with regional and international partners to discuss the delay in the formation of the transitional Government and the need for concerted pressure on the parties to ensure steady progress over the next six months. From 10 to 12 May, my Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations undertook a joint visit to South Sudan with the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, the ambassadors of the States members of the African Union High-level Ad Hoc Committee on South Sudan and the IGAD Special Envoy to demonstrate continued support for the peace process and to urge the parties to take responsibility for the timely implementation of the Revitalized Agreement.

Other national political developments

16. The national dialogue process saw some progress towards inclusivity and compromise. Following a leadership forum facilitated by UNMISS on 6 and 7 March in Juba, and a retreat held by the In Transformation Initiative from 8 to 12 April in Pretoria, South Africa, some opposition groups indicated their willingness, in principle, to take part in the national dialogue. From 20 to 24 May, the national dialogue regional conference of greater Upper Nile commenced in Juba, with discussions on the integration of opposition groups held on the margins of the conference.

17. During the reporting period, South Sudan followed closely developments in the Sudan, following the overthrow of the President, Omer Al-Bashir. On 17 April, a delegation led by the Presidential Advisor for Security Affairs of South Sudan met with the head of the Transitional Military Council of the Sudan and exchanged assurances on continued good relations between the two countries.

18. Meanwhile, a youth group called for anti-government demonstrations on 16 May to protest against delays in the implementation of the peace agreement. The Minister of Information, Michael Makuei, publicly threatened would-be protesters and warned them against emulating the protests taking place in the Sudan. UNMISS observed a significant build-up of government forces throughout Juba in the lead-up to 16 May, but no protests materialized.

19. Between 14 and 19 May, President Kiir issued decrees replacing the governors of Ruweng, Southern Liech, Western Lakes, Northern Upper Nile, Central Upper Nile and Aweil. On 22 May, President Kiir convened a meeting of the Sudan People ‘s Liberation Movement Political Bureau, the highest party leadership organ, and urged all members to reconcile. Meanwhile, celebrations for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army Day were postponed from 16 May to 23 May and passed without incident.

Economic developments

20. The economy of South Sudan continued to show early signs of recovery. On the parallel market, the currency was relatively stable, at about 270 South Sudanese pounds to the United States dollar. The year-on-year inflation rate for South Sudan continued to stabilize and stood at an estimated 7 per cent for the month of February, which is the lowest in six years. Oil production stood at 175,000 barrels a day thanks to the resumption of oil production in Unity, although this is still below the pre-conflict level of 350,000 barrels per day.

Source: UN Security Council