1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2406 (2018), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 15 March 2019 and, in accordance with prior resolutions, requested me to report on the implementation of the mandate every 90 days. It covers political and security developments between 1 December 2018 and 26 February 2019, the humanitarian and human rights situation, and progress in the implementation of the Mission mandate. The report also provides recommendations for the renewal of the UNMISS mandate.
II. Political and economic developments
2. During the reporting period, the South Sudanese parties made modest progress in implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. The permanent ceasefire was upheld in most parts of the country and confidence-building among the parties continued. Military commanders engaged in local rapprochement efforts, while local authorities and communities held peace celebrations in several locations. Activities to implement the Revitalized Agreement continued to focus, however, only on procedural issues, and timelines to meet the political and security benchmarks of the pre-transition period have slipped.
Implementation of the Revitalized Agreement
3. The pre-transitional period is in its fifth month, with three months remaining before the beginning of the transitional period, according to the Revitalized Agreement. A number of opposition leaders have returned to Juba or visit frequently, including the deputy chair of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Opposition, Henry Odwar; the head of the SPLM/A in Opposition security committee, Angelina Teny; the leader of SPLM “Former Detainees”, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior; the chair of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, Gabriel Changson Chang; the chair of the National Democratic Movement, Lam Akol Ajawin; the former Secretary-General of the Jieng Council of Elders, Ustaz Lewis Anei Madut; and other opposition officials. To facilitate the return of the opposition leaders, the National Pre-Transitional Committee arranged for security and accommodation for returning opposition representatives.
4. The opposition leaders have been participating in meetings of the implementation organs for the peace agreement together with representatives of the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity and other political groups. The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, members of the Government and several opposition leaders have made statements of commitment to the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement at public events to celebrate the return of peace.
5. Deliberations in the implementation bodies remained focused on meeting procedures, budgetary matters and work planning, with modest progress being made on substantive matters. Discussions concerning incorporation of the Revitalized Agreement into the Transitional Constitution remained overshadowed by disputes over the adoption of a decentralized or devolved system of governance. Following a decision by the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, issued upon a request from the parties that the provision in question should state that the country is governed on the basis of a “decentralized democratic system” and should impose a duty on the Transitional Government to “devolve more powers and resources to the states and lower forms of government as shall be agreed by the parties”, on 24 January the chair of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee submitted a draft constitutional amendment bill containing that provision to the Minister of Justice. On 14 February, the Council of Ministers approved the draft bill and recommended its transmission to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, but the opposition expressed significant misgivings in respect of these procedures.
6. The Technical Boundary Committee, composed of members appointed by countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the troika and supported by an international expert appointed by the United Nations, convened its first meeting in Juba on 6 December. The Committee is mandated to define, within 60 days, the tribal areas of South Sudan as they stood on 1 January 1956, and report to the IGAD mediation process. The Committee has engaged with stakeholders to solicit their views and has also received submissions from representatives of the various communities. The Independent Boundaries Commission is yet to be formed.
7. Talks on transitional security arrangements and defence and security reform made limited progress, focusing on short-term measures of cantonment and sustainment. The Joint Defence Board agreed to a pilot assembly and training site near Kajo Kaji, Central Equatoria, for a total of 3,000 troops (1,000 each from the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), SPLM/A in Opposition and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance). On 3 February, the Board agreed to establish 25 cantonments sites. The remaining sites will be established in the second phase, for a total of 40 sites. The schedule and other details of the pilot site remain unconfirmed. The Board also decided to undertake a series of familiarization visits to Yei, Akobo, Yirol, Wau, Bor and Raja. Plans for a professionalized, unified national army and comprehensive security and defence sector reforms are yet to be presented for consideration.
8. The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism met regularly to discuss adherence by the parties to the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements. The parties agreed to enhance local trust-building at the field commander level. On 18 December, in a serious violation of the Revitalized Agreement, government officials assaulted, detained and abused members of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism team in Luri, Central Equatoria. The attack was broadly condemned by regional and international partners and the Government has initiated an investigation into the incident.