South Sudan

Benchmarks to assess the arms embargo on South Sudan - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/321) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to the letter from the President of the Security Council dated 16 December 2020, in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to provide recommendations on benchmarks to assess the arms embargo on South Sudan.

2. In the preparation of the present report, remote consultations were held with interlocutors at the country and regional levels and in New York. At the country and regional levels, consultations were held with representatives of the Government of South Sudan and members of South Sudanese civil society (including women’s groups); the Intergovernmental Authority on Development; the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa; the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism; the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS); and members of the diplomatic corps based in Juba. In New York, consultations were held with the members of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan; representatives of the permanent missions of the States of the region; and the Department of Peace Operations (including the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions), the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and concerned United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. In addition, the present report benefited from consultations with the Panel of Experts on South Sudan, whose members are home-based.

II. Context

3. By its resolution 2428 (2018), the Security Council adopted a general arms embargo on South Sudan, a sanctions measure which has since been renewed several times, most recently until 31 May 2021. In my report (S/2020/1067), I provided the Council with an assessment of the contribution of the arms embargo to the facilitation and implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, including adherence to the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access of 21 December 2017 and the ceasefire provisions of the Revitalized Agreement.

4. Consultations of the Secretariat on possible benchmarks to assess the arms embargo were conducted against a backdrop of slow progress in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. Since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on 12 September 2018, implementation of the political commitments contained in its chapter 1 has yet to be completed. In February 2020, the parties formed the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, marking the end of the pre-transitional period. By January 2021, the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity had implemented the decision on responsibility-sharing ratios for gubernatorial and State positions, following which governors and deputy governors of the 10 states and chief administrators of the administrative areas were finally appointed. However, the reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the appointment of the Council of States remain pending. Moreover, progress is outstanding in a number of commitments pertaining to the representation of women, including 35 per cent in the executive branch.

5. In terms of the security sector, the formation, training and redeployment of the necessary unified forces, in accordance with chapter 2 of the Revitalized Agreement, has yet to move forward. The lack of a security strategy, resources and funding has impeded progress in the implementation of the transitional security arrangements, including the proper functioning of the cantonment and training sites. Recent civilian disarmament campaigns have been unsuccessful and resulted in violence, notably in Warrap State in August 2020. Moreover, in the reports on the independent strategic review of UNMISS (S/2020/1224) and of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan (S/2020/14), it was noted that the parties to the conflict had continued to recruit new troops, contrary to the provisions of the Revitalized Agreement. Defections and changes of allegiance among the parties continue to undermine the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement and the permanent ceasefire.

6. While the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the permanent ceasefire have been largely respected in most parts of the country, subnational violence has continued to increase. This is due in part to economically motivated violence and criminality but also driven by conflict among national-level political actors. In recent months, subnational violence was registered in the Greater Upper Nile region, the Greater Equatoria region and the Greater Bahr el-Ghazal region.

7. Such violence has had a deleterious effect on the efforts of humanitarian workers, who are already grappling with attacks against them, natural disasters, bureaucratic impediments and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. As noted in the report on the independent strategic review of UNMISS (S/2020/1224), the denial of humanitarian access is, at times, part of deliberate strategies by political and military actors to manipulate the distribution of resources. Likewise, UNMISS continues to encounter violations of the status-of-forces agreement, which impede the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate.

8. The continued violence – whether perpetrated by the parties to the Revitalized Agreement, community-based militias or other armed elements involved in subnational violence – has severe consequences for the respect of human rights in South Sudan. Such violence includes arbitrary killings, abductions, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention (including proxy detention), torture and ill-treatment, forced military recruitment and the looting and destruction of civilian property. Notwithstanding some steps taken by the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, overall progress relating to transitional justice commitments contained in the Revitalized Agreement has been slow. criminality but also driven by conflict among national-level political actors.