In line with my agenda on reforming the peace and security pillar of the United Nations, I directed the Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support to undertake reviews of eight major peacekeeping operations b y June 2018. The independent review of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was conducted from November 2017 to January 2018 by an integrated team that included representatives of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and agencies, funds and programmes, and was led by an independent expert and former acting Under-Secretary General for Safety and Security, Kevin Kennedy. The team initially undertook a conflict analysis and consultations at Headquarters, before proceeding to South Sudan, where it received detailed briefings and held extensive consultations with UNMISS and the United Nations country team, the Transitional Government of National Unity, the diplomatic community and non-governmental organizations. The team also visited Addis Ababa and engaged with African Union officials and representatives from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, former detainees, the National Salvation Front and other political parties, as well as United Nations officials. In the first parts of the report I present and summarize the main findings of the review team, and in the final section I offer my observations and recommendations prior to the renewal of the mandate of UNMISS, on 15 March 2018.
The review process was focused on assessing five fundamental issues: the scope of the mandate and the validity of the assumptions underlying its current four pillars (protection of civilians, monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support to the political process); the performance of the Mission in implementing its mandate and how it could be improved; the conditions for achieving a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan; possibilities for greater synergies among UNMISS, the United Nations country team and other international partners to achieve our common strategic objectives in South Sudan; and finally, how a viable exit strategy for the Mission would be defined.
II. Evolution of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan was established on 8 July 2011 by the Security Council in its resolution 1996 (2011) of 8 July 2011. A strategic assessment conducted at the time identified the principal political and security risks for the newly created country to be the outstanding disputes with the Sudan resulting from the non-implementation of some of the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as well as the threat posed by local rebellions, militias, poor governance in the management of oil revenue and the lack of cohesive national security institutions. Intercommunal violence was also identified as a major source of concern for the protection of civilians. Capacity-building and providing support to government institutions were considered essential to assisting in State -building, delivering public services and mitigating the risks of conflict. UNMISS was thus mandated to support extending state authority throughout the country, and to provide assistance to local state structures through the establishment of county support bases.
Concurrently, the Council authorized a peacekeeping force with a ceiling of 7,000 military and 900 police personnel. Through my Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan, the United Nations also supported the African Union High-level Implementation Panel in addressing outstanding disputes between South Sudan and the Sudan.
Following the outbreak of violence in Juba in December 2013 between forces loyal to the President, Salva Kiir, and the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, the country progressively descended into a state of civil war. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) assumed the lead of the political negotiations to resolve the conflict, supported by my Special Envoy and UNMISS. The Government became a party to a bitter and extremely violent conflict, which included repeated atrocities committed against defenceless and vulnerable civilians. As a result of the increased fighting, in its resolution 2132 (2013) of 24 December 2013, the Security Council raised the Mission’s troop ceiling to 12,500 troops with a more robust protection of civilians mandate. Subsequently, Council resolution 2155 (2014) of 27 May 2014 established the current four-pillar mandate and terminated the Mission’s capacity-building tasks due to concerns that any assistance to the Government would indicate political support and could facilitate its war effort.
After 18 months of negotiations, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (hereinafter referred to as peace agreement) was signed in August 2015 and was later complemented by further provisions regarding the transitional security arrangements, in October 2015. On 15 December 2015, the Security Council adopted resolution 2252 (2015), which raised the force levels of UNMISS up to a ceiling of 13,000 troops and 2,001 members of the police force, maintained the first three pillars of its mandate and revised the fourth pillar to add the provision of support to the implementation of the peace agreement. The mandate also included significant logistical and force protection support to the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism.
The outbreak of violence in July 2016 was further evidence of the continued unwillingness of the parties to resolve their disputes through peaceful means. To address the crisis and enable UNMISS to better protect civilians, the Security Council, through resolution 2304 (2016), once again raised the ceiling of the Mission to 17,000 troops, including, at the request of IGAD, a 4,000-strong regional protection force. The mandate of the regional protection force was specifically defined to improve security and protection of civilians in Juba, including to ensure movements at exit and entry points around Juba, contribute to security at the airport and secure key installations. The Government of South Sudan first opposed and then reluctantly accepted the regional protection force deployment, criticizing the deployment as an attack against its sovereignty, motivated by a regime change agenda. As a result, the Government created serious impediments to the deployment of the regional protection force which has yet to be completed more than a year after its authorization.