Protection Trends - South Sudan: January - December 2017
This report is the eleventh in the series of Protection Trends reports prepared by the South Sudan Protection Cluster, with inputs from Child Protection, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), and Mine Action sub-clusters. This paper is a departure from previous Trends reports, instead providing an overview of the protection trends for the entire year. The paper provides an overview of the protection situation followed by a discussion of trends based on data collected during reporting period for general protection trends, child protection, GBV, and mine action. This includes an overview of the context, access to basic services, forced displacement and population movement patterns, family tracing and reunification, grave violations of child rights, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and explosive hazards.
This report is not an exhaustive overview of the context in South Sudan in 2017, rather it highlights trends and observations of the serious protection trends impacting the civilian population in South Sudan to inform the response of both humanitarian and political actors. For more detail on protection trends relating to specific periods, please refer to previous quarterly trends reports. To contextualize the reporting period, the paper uses data going back to 2013, to understand the progressive impact of conflict and insecurity on protection concerns. The information presented in the report is based on a broad range of sources. The operational environment currently limits the availability of data on some key protection concerns. Furthermore, lack of humanitarian presence and reliance on remote data collection for some locations present major challenges in providing an accurate and comprehensive depiction of the protection situation in some areas.
The continued armed conflict in South Sudan in 2017 has dire consequences for civilians resulting in civilian deaths, separation, and conflict related sexual violence. These issues are compounded by growing food insecurity, limited basic services, widespread health issues, and exacerbated by heavy rains and flooding. There was little improvement in the overall protection environment and civilians continued to flee from active conflict and reports of fighting across the country. ACLED data showed that the highest number of conflict incidents occurred in April, when reported incidents of violence against civilians reached unprecedented levels. The severity of the conflict continued to follow seasonal patterns with a decline in the number of incidents by half in the rainy season. The rainy season had less impact than in previous years in limiting fighting, and fighting expanded into areas that had been comparatively calm throughout the conflict.
Steps towards political resolution of the conflict were taken in 2017, but had not made significant impact on the level of conflict by the end of the year. President Kiir officially launched the National Dialogue, on 22 May, with the swearing in of a 94 member steering committee. The potential effectiveness of the National Dialogue remained uncertain with widespread active conflict, access challenges, unclear engagement of affected populations, and concerns over the ability for open dialogue and inclusiveness, necessary for a reconciliatory process. Kiir marked the occasion of the inauguration of the National Dialogue by declaring a unilateral ceasefire. This had little to impact on the active conflict.
The reporting period also saw increased fractionalization among opposition forces, particularly in the Greater Equatorias and Greater Upper Nile. Several opposition groups issued a statement in May announcing a united approach; however, little coordination or cooperation was demonstrated by the end of the year. Despite their announcement, there were several clashes between opposition armed groups, particularly in the Equatorias. The emergence of Taban Deng allied opposition forces, resulted in splitting and defection of the opposition aligned to Reik Machar in Unity State and Upper Nile. Exacerbated by the proliferation of armed actors, forced recruitment was identified a serious protection concern for men and boys in Greater Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile. There were high profile resignations and dismissals of SPLM and SPLA leadership in the first half of the year. On 9 May, the Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong Awan, was dismissed. President Kiir later announced a restructuring of the SPLA. Malong remained under house arrest in Juba until the situation was mediated and he was permitted to travel to Kenya in November. The repercussions of this events are still unfolding.
On 12 June, IGAD announced a process to revitalize the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) of August 2015, and endorsed a High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) to mediate a political settlement for peace. The primary objectives of the HLRF were threefold: first, restoration of a permanent ceasefire; second, implementation of ARCSS; third, revise the timeline of ARCSS for democratic elections at the end of the implementation period (which was initially scheduled to end in October 2018). ARCSS has three signatories: the former Government of South Sudan, SPLM-IO, and SPLM-FD. Circumstances in the country have significantly changed since the signing of ARCSS, with increases in the geographic scope of conflict and the number of armed groups. The HLRF was tasked with identifying key stakeholders and groups for consultations, which began at the end of September 2017.
The first of the 4,000 Regional Protection Force (RPF) troops began arriving in August and were initially accommodated in the UNMISS base in Tongping. The deployment of the RPF caused friction with the Government. The RPF was transitioned to a base outside of Juba. The full deployment was stalled and by the end of 2017, only 731 had arrived. In the second half of the year, UNMISS took steps towards re-opening its former base in Yei as part of efforts to increase protection throughout the country.
On 14 December the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2392, which extended the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2018, pending the ongoing strategic review. The Security Council statement supported the IGAD HLRF, calling for inclusive participation of civil society, women and youth. The resolution reiterated JMEC findings that “the parties to the conflict have failed to implement substantive elements of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, and that conditions for credible election do not presently exist.” The Security Council urged that parties agree to strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, take steps to improve human rights, accountability measures, and humanitarian access. This included addressing the issue of military use and occupation of schools and hospitals, which, as reported under the grave violations monitoring and reporting framework for South Sudan directly affected over 16,501 children in 2017. The resolution went on to call for measures for representation of all South Sudanese in governance structures, and restated the Government’s agreement to fully cooperate with UNMISS.
IGAD HLRF talks began in Addis, on 15 December 2017, and culminated with the signing of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access (ACoH) on 21 December. The signatories included representatives from: TGoNU, SPLA/M-IO, NAS, SPLM-FD, NDM, FDP/SSAF, SSUM, SSPM, SSNMC, SSLM, and PDM as well as other political groups and representative for youth, women, and other civilian representatives. The ACoH came into effect on 24 December. According to CTSAMM reports, the agreement was violated by the SPLA-IO in Koch with attacks on 24 December, and SPLA movements in Mundri, with multiple subsequent violations documented by CTSAMM. The Government questioned whether the reports were objective, and issued a warning to NGOs that only CTSAMM has a mandate to report on military operations and violations of the ACoH.
The economic situation in South Sudan continued to deteriorate, having a severe impact on the civilian population. Oil production, the primary source of gross domestic product, decreased. The costs of the conflict and security resulted in printing additional money, which further exacerbated inflation. The consumer price index officially increased 155 percent between July 2016 and June 2017, which was significantly less than the previous year in which there was a 480 percent price increase. On the parallel market, the rate for SSP against the dollar continued to depreciate: with the exchange rate increasing from 18.5 December 2015, 7 August 2016, 172 August 2017, to 220 December 2017. Nearly all basic food staples experienced an above normal price increase over 2017 in assessed markets across the country. These factors, combined with limited livelihood options, resulted in the price of basic goods and the minimum food basket being unaffordable for the vast majority of South Sudanese.