On 12 September 2018, Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan, Riek Machar Teny, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, and other rebel factions signed the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan. The agreement has reduced fighting in many parts of the country, allowing for some alleviation of the serious humanitarian emergency that still afflicts the majority of the civilian population. It has also facilitated the return of senior opposition figures to Juba, opening new space for the political dialogue and confidence-building that will be necessary for the forthcoming transitional period.
Some armed groups remain outside of the agreement, however, including an alliance led by the National Salvation Front of Thomas Cirillo. A sustained conflict with Government forces has led to renewed fighting in Central and Western Equatoria, displacing an estimated 12,000 civilians since January 2019. They join the more than 2 million civilians who remain displaced by the conflict, most of whom have yet to see tangible improvements in their lives as a result of high-level political negotiations. Many remain vulnerable to growing food insecurity and alarming and persistent levels of sexual violence abetted by impunity.
The implementation of the agreement has also been challenged by delays and occasional obstruction. A state of emergency remains in place; several prominent political detainees are still in detention or unaccounted for; and little substantive progress has been made on the most challenging provisions, notably those pertaining to political boundaries, the devolution of power from the centre to the periphery, and security provisions.
At the heart of those issues is a Government reluctant to share control of key parts of the political, security and economic landscape of South Sudan. This is perhaps most evident in the growing power and influence of the National Security Service, which has emerged as a significant and parallel fighting force able to operate outside the rule of law and the framework for the implementation of the peace agreement. Both the Government and opposition forces also continue to profit from a parallel conflict economy, including through the illicit trade in timber and gold.
Political elites benefiting from a period of relative stability and access to an economy buoyed by increasing oil production and prices have little to gain from the collapse of the agreement. They are, however, increasingly contending with the waning patience of commanders, fighters and civilians, who have yet to see the benefits of the bargains struck by their leaders. Maintaining momentum by supporting the resolution of the most contentious aspects of the agreement is now a key challenge to its sustainability.
The regional context in which the agreement is being implemented has also shifted since the Panel’s interim report of November 2018 (S/2018/1049), with domestic instability occupying the Sudan, one of its key guarantors, and other regional disputes having emerged as competing priorities for Uganda.
In adopting resolution 2428 (2018), the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the entire territory of South Sudan, while detailing exemptions to the ban in paragraph 5. As in its interim report, the Panel has continued to note the presence of foreign military forces in South Sudan. While the Panel has not identified the import of substantial amounts of weaponry or ammunition, it has noted limitations to current efforts to monitor the embargo, including the absence of any inspection reports produced further to paragraph 8 of resolution 2428 (2018). Shortcomings have also been identified in the systems put in place by regional States to implement the asset freeze.
The present final report describes the Panel’s findings from its work completed between September 2018 and March 2019.