South Sudan

Interim report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2206 (2015) (S/2016/963)

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Letter dated 15 November 2016 from the Panel of Experts on South Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2206 (2015) addressed to the President of the Security Council

The members of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2206 (2015), whose mandate was extended pursuant to Council resolution 2290 (2016), have the honour to transmit herewith, in accordance with paragraph 12 (d) of resolution 2290 (2016), the Panel’s interim report.

The report was provided to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) on 28 October 2016 and was considered by the Committee on 11 November.

The Panel would appreciate it if the present letter and the report were brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council.

(Signed) Payton Knopf
Coordinator
Panel of Experts on South Sudan

(Signed) Andrews Atta-Asamoah
Expert

(Signed) Andrei Kolmakov
Expert

(Signed) Ann Oosterlinck
Expert

(Signed) Klem Ryan
Expert

Interim report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2206 (2015)

Summary

In the wake of the de facto collapse of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan after the fighting in Juba in July 2016, the political and security situation in the country has continued to deteriorate markedly, and the prospects for an even more catastrophic escalation of violence at the outset of the dry season in November and December are high. Armed actors on all sides continue to demonstrate in word and in deed that they are preparing for just such an escalation.

The permanent ceasefire envisaged in the Agreement has not been respected by the parties. Violence is surging in greater Equatoria and has included the systematic targeting of civilians, gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and widespread sexual violence as part of the brutal counter-insurgency campaign undertaken by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and militias affiliated with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/A) in Government led by the President, Salva Kiir. In Central Equatoria — the seat of the capital, Juba — armed groups are increasingly targeting vehicles carrying goods and civilians, many of whom are Dinka, in retaliation for the government offensive and other policies. Compounded by the intensity of inflammatory rhetoric by Dinka and non-Dinka alike in recent weeks, these tactics have the potential to provoke violent ethnic conflict on an even greater scale. Fighting is also continuing in Western Bahr el-Ghazal, Upper Nile and Unity, and arms continue to flow into the country.

While the flight of the leader of SPLM/A in Opposition, Riek Machar, from South Sudan may give the appearance of the ascendance of Kiir and his inner circle and may have emboldened these elements, deep structural weaknesses within the regime and SPLA, in addition to an increasing lack of control over large portions of the country, nevertheless underscore the tenuous nature of his rule. Kiir’s co-optation of the Agreement by placing his proxies in most positions reserved for SPLM/A in Opposition members within the Transitional Government of National Unity has foreclosed a meaningful political and reconciliation process, further dividing the country along tribal lines, given that many non-Dinka communities — and Dinka alienated by the regime — see no viable forum to express political dissent, pursue reform or ensure their basic security. Provocative policy initiatives, such as Kiir’s order of October 2015 to increase the number of states from 10 to 28, proposed by the Jieng Council of Elders and supported and defended by political figures such as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Michael Makuei, are exacerbating these divisions.

This volatility is compounded within Juba by concerns about Kiir’s health and the uncertainty of presidential succession. Rumours in mid-October that Kiir had become gravely ill, subsequently proved to be somewhat exaggerated, raised fears of possible armed conflict erupting between various factions over the future of the presidency, notably between the SPLA Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong, and the Director General of the Internal Security Bureau of the National Security Service, Akol Koor, in addition to various other Dinka clans and political affiliates.

The armed opposition to Kiir’s regime is an increasingly multifaceted amalgam of forces encompassing dissident groups with diverse grievances, aims and approaches to the war. Many of these groups are either not under the direct control of SPLM/A in Opposition led by Machar, which was a party to the Agreement, or are only loosely affiliated with it. Nevertheless, Machar’s resilience, notwithstanding the government attempts to assassinate him in greater Equatoria, has seemingly provided more motivation for Equatorian armed elements to associate formally with SPLM/A in Opposition. The perception that the belligerence of Kiir’s Dinka-dominated regime is leading the country inexorably towards a devastating tribal war, coupled with a sense that the international community is failing to take the steps necessary to avoid a further escalation of the conflict, are providing impetus among non-Dinka opposition political and military forces towards greater coordination, if not complete organizational unity.

Mass displacements, both internally and across borders, have accelerated in recent months, with more than 1 million South Sudanese now having sought refuge in neighbouring countries — 200,000 from greater Equatoria alone between July and October.a Severe food insecurity, approaching famine levels in some areas, affects at least 4.8 million people,(a) over one third of the population. Peacekeeping and humanitarian operations continue to be relentlessly obstructed, principally by civilian and armed actors affiliated with SPLM/A in Government. Notwithstanding the purported acceptance by Kiir’s regime of the regional protection force envisaged under Security Council resolution 2304 (2016), his spokesperson publicly rejected the proposed troop-contributing countries on 24 October. While Kiir established a committee on 14 October to facilitate an improvement in humanitarian access within two weeks,(b) there had been no evidence of improved access as at the time of submission of the present report on 28 October. In fact, the government has consistently failed to demonstrate any willingness to alleviate what is by every empirical measure among the worst country-wide humanitarian emergencies in the world.

The extension of the war also continues to pose an increasingly grave threat to the country’s neighbours. For example, on 13 August, some 800 to 900 troops from SPLA Division VI launched an incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crossing the border and engaging in a battle with SPLM/A in Opposition. On 17 August, two MI-24 helicopters also crossed the border, travelling nearly 6 km into Congolese territory and again attacking SPLM/A in Opposition positions.

(a) Data as at 20 October 2016. See “OCHA humanitarian bulletin South Sudan”, No. 16, 20 October 2016
(b) See “President Kiir forms joint humanitarian aid delivery committee”, Sudan Tribune, 17 October 2016. Available from www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article60555.