The civil war in South Sudan, which began as a political conflict between elites, has evolved over the past two years into a tribal war, reigniting historic grievances and encouraging military opportunism and revenge. The war is now perceived by many South Sudanese as a zero-sum struggle where the exclusion of competing tribes from political power and the monopolization of resources for personal gain have become the principal aims of the belligerents.
The President, Salva Kiir, and a narrow circle of senior individuals in the military and security services, including the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong, and the Director General of the National Security Service’s Internal Security Bureau, Akol Koor, are waging an aggressive war involving the targeting of civilians and extensive destruction of communities. Meanwhile, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition), Riek Machar, continues to seek funding and weapons to prosecute the war and to further his personal political ambitions at the expense of peace.
The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, which the Government and SPLM/A in Opposition signed in August 2015, has failed to result in a meaningful reduction of violence. As at the time of submission of the present report, in mid-December 2015, both parties were consistently violating the “permanent ceasefire” set out in the peace agreement, with particularly high levels of violence in Unity and Western Equatoria States. Civilians continue to be targeted because of their tribal affiliation. Progress towards the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity envisaged in the agreement has been minimal.
The relentless war has caused an ever-worsening humanitarian catastrophe. More than 2.3 million people have been displaced since December 2013, and the most recent available data indicate that 3.9 million people are facing severe food insecurity, an increase of 80 per cent over a 12-month period. Obstruction of humanitarian access is also widespread, with parts of Unity, Upper Nile and Western Equatoria States, among others, entirely blocked to humanitarian relief.
The humanitarian situation in Unity State in particular reflects the devastating results of the Government’s systematic attacks against its own citizens in order to deny the opposition a support base, resulting in egregious human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and conflict-related sexual violence, massive population displacements, the destruction of livelihoods and food crops and the raiding of cattle.
The security and humanitarian situation in the greater Equatoria region, in particular Western Equatoria State, has also deteriorated significantly following initial clashes in May and June 2015; tens of thousands have been displaced as a result of the violence.
In Upper Nile State, the period between April and July 2015 was marked by a surge in fighting. While SPLA regained control of the state capital in July, the current period of lower-scale fighting is tenuous, and grievances between communities or tensions inside SPLA could lead to a return to large-scale conflict at any time.
The National Security Service and SPLA Military Intelligence have been involved in the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals suspected of supporting the opposition. Initially, most of those arrested or detained were Nuer. In recent months, however, Equatorians have increasingly become targets as political opposition against the Government has grown in the greater Equatoria region.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) personnel are regularly attacked, harassed, detained, intimidated and threatened. Since the adoption of resolution 2206 (2015) on 3 March, the Government has committed at least 450 violations of the status-of-forces agreement, including assaults against United Nations personnel and restrictions on the movement of peacekeeping patrols and other UNMISS operations. The opposition and other anti-government groups have committed several dozen more similar acts. As at the time of writing, 43 humanitarian workers had been killed since the war began, in December 2013.
Both sides have continued to acquire arms and military equipment, even after the signing of the peace agreement in August and in the face of considerable economic stress. The Government has at least three operational Mi-24 helicopters, procured in 2014 at a total cost of nearly $43 million; they have been vital in providing an important advantage in military operations, have facilitated the expansion of the war and have emboldened those in the Government who are seeking a military solution to the conflict at the expense of the peace process. As at mid-September 2015, the Ministry of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs was requesting final payment from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning for four additional attack helicopters at a total cost in excess of $35 million and was actively pressing the Ministry for the payment of at least two, and likely three, other contracts for other military materiel and related equipment, totalling some $50 million.
Through the Office of its Chair, SPLM/A in Opposition has also continuously sought to procure and obtain arms from numerous sources, albeit with comparatively limited success. The Panel has, however, confirmed that SPLM/A in Opposition has received ammunition and, to a lesser extent, arms, as well as other items such as uniforms, from the Sudan.
To supply clear and convincing evidence relevant to the designation of individuals engaged in actions or policies threatening the peace, security and stability of South Sudan, consistent with resolution 2206 (2015), the Panel has provided a summary of its investigations into the command responsibility within the belligerent parties to the war, details of the actions and policies resulting from command decisions and a description of the linkage to the criteria for sanctions designation established in the resolution.
The Panel has determined, on the basis of a preponderance of evidence, that both Kiir and Machar maintain command responsibility for their respective forces and that, since both the outbreak of the war, in December 2013, and the subsequent adoption of resolution 2206 (2015), both sides have consistently engaged in actions and policies meeting all eight criteria described in the resolution as grounds for the imposition of targeted sanctions. The Panel has further determined, on the basis of multiple, independent sources with first-hand knowledge, that there is clear and convincing evidence that most of the acts of violence committed during the war, including the targeting of civilians and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, have been directed by or undertaken with the knowledge of senior individuals at the highest levels of the Government and within the opposition.