By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 14th March 2022
This Part Two of this article looks at concerns expressed during the latest United Nations Security Council briefing on South Sudan in relation to the September 2021 joint report of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2567 (2021) and Human Rights Council resolution 46/29 (2021).
The Report “presents the findings of investigations conducted by the UNMISS Human Rights Division (HRD) into grave and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, including attacks against civilians reportedly committed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) and South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) led by Major General James Nando (Maj Gen Nando) and their respective affiliated militias, in and around Tambura County, Western Equatoria state, between June and September 2021.”
“Sub-national violence continues to spread. This includes perennial conflicts, such as in Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area, and emerging cross-border conflicts, in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Upper Nile States, and the Abyei Administrative Area. All of which underscores the need to liberate South Sudan from the repetitive cycles of violence and revenge. This in turn is fuelled by national and local political competition, some involving non-signatory armed groups, some intra SPLM/A-IO clashes, and community disputes over land and resources, including those induced by climate change. With the dry season setting in, a spike in intercommunal violence has been observed in the past month,” Haysom said in his statement during the Briefing.
“As briefings from OCHA demonstrate, this year, overall humanitarian needs are projected to continue growing. Yet the donors’ appetite to provide additional resources to South Sudan is trending in reverse. The third year of consecutive floods, exacerbated by insecurity and the prolonged impact of Covid-19 has strained coping mechanisms, destroying farmland, killing livestock, threatening dykes and similar flood mitigation infrastructure, all causing further displacement and unpreceded food insecurity. This bears negatively on the prospects for the next agricultural season, in a country that otherwise has the potential for self-sufficiency.”
The recommendations the Joint Report has made to the Government of South Sudan; To all parties to the conflict; To the regional and international community are shared here below in this article.
Meanwhile, also among what the speakers said in relation to the Report during the UN Security Council briefing are that:
-The Council has to take these kinds of reports seriously, it can’t stay silent, and the region can’t stay silent.
-The Government of South Sudan must investigate and prosecute all those responsible for crimes committed, including and especially those in positions of command and authority.
-They remain deeply concerned about reports of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UNMISS personnel over the last year, including two allegations filed last December, urging all parties involved in these investigations to complete their inquiries in a timely and transparent manner, and to ensure accountability for perpetrators if these allegations are substantiated.
-That UNMISS’s own role in monitoring and investigating human rights violations is not just critically important but absolutely necessary and the increased deployment of Temporary Operating Bases by UNMISS to support populations that are affected by increased insecurity is extremely welcome.
-That defections and subsequent violent clashes between different armed factions across the country are incidents that perpetuate division at a time when the need for unity is greater than ever, and that are also against the letter and spirit of the peace agreement.
-That the human rights situation in South Sudan is deeply worrying and that the continued crackdown on civic space, including harassment of human rights activists, detention of journalists and restrictions on freedom of speech and association, are unacceptable.
-That the Government of South Sudan (should) fulfill their responsibilities, with respect to their people.
-That is important to provide a clear mandate for the Mission to to increase the promotion of accountability for sexual and gender-based violence and human rights violations and abuses; and to include stronger language about addressing the effects of climate change.
-That it is essential to provide technical assistance, capacity-building and logistical support to national and local institutions across the four mandated Mission tasks.
-That the Council to devote more attention to assisting the authorities in the peace agreement implementation and capacity-building for addressing local conflicts.
In her statement during the briefing, Riya William Yuyada, a human rights and peace activist with Crown the Woman said:
“Although major towns including the Capital Juba has remained calm, violence has increased at the local level. One of the factors driving the violence is the exclusionary nature of of political and peace efforts at all levels.Communities do not feel represented by officials and there is no accountability for those who misuse their authority. This is a particularly important lesson for the Security Council to take forward when renewing the mandate of UNMISS. It is sad, it is disheartening and unacceptable that we continue to raise the same issues with Council members, only to see the situation continue to worsen. We are tired of sharing the same stories of rape, child marriage, war, trauma and loss.”
“After enduring decades of conflicts, the resilience of my fellow South Sudanese is fading. Although ours is a history of struggle for liberty, freedom, prosperity and dignity, we cannot struggle no more. To expect the South Sudanese to remain resilient in the face of the Covid-19 Pandemic and other trauma, losing our Children, loved ones, being displaced from our homes, dying from hunger, floods, disease and witnessing the impunity with which sexual violence including rape and other horrific crimes under international law have been committed under the watch of this council and its member states is unacceptable,” She added.
The following are the recommendations UNMISS and OHCHR made in the joint report:
To the Government of South Sudan to:
• Conduct prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in Western Equatoria State; and hold to account all individuals at the local and national levels who instigated and/or took part directly or indirectly in these violations and abuses.
• Prosecute all those allegedly responsible for crimes committed, including those in positions of command and authority; and where the Government is unable or unwilling to do so, invoke other accountability mechanisms – including the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, when established.
• Take appropriate measures to facilitate the tracing, unconditional release and reunification of all abducted women and children and take steps to prosecute sexual violence crimes while ensuring that survivors receive reparations.
• Ensure that victims and survivors have access to basic services and adequate access to a remedy and full reparation.
• Continue to encourage dialogue and reconciliation, including bringing key community leaders and representatives to a peace conference.
• Sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Hybrid Court with the African Union as a meaningful step towards the establishment of this Court.
• Implement commitments made in the R-ARCSS;
• Uphold its obligations under the international human rights treaties it subscribed and to take all appropriate measures to protect civilians in its territory.
• Take necessary measures to ensure greater protection of humanitarian workers in South Sudan.
To all parties to the conflict:
• Comply with the provisions of the 2018 R-ARCSS, including those prohibiting “acts and forms of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and harassment”.
• Abide by international human rights law and international humanitarian law; and reiterate and enforce orders to ensure the conduct of any military operations in strict compliance with international law, in particular the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality, and the prohibition of murder, sexual violence, pillage, and other violations and abuses.
• Immediately and unconditionally release all civilians abducted and/or forcibly recruited, especially children and women.
• Take prompt and effective actions against persons under their command to be held accountable for human rights violations and abuses, including accountability processes and screening them out of the organized forces.
• Grant unhindered access to humanitarian organizations and UNMISS to reach displaced civilians and victims.
To the regional and international community:
• Encourage and support humanitarian and development stakeholders to ensure the centrality of protection in their programming and activities.
• Reinforce the capacity of national and local authorities to prevent armed violence in Western Equatoria State and across South Sudan in general.
• Support accountability mechanisms, including through the Hybrid Court for South Sudan when established and through the deployment of an AU advanced investigation team.
• Strongly advocate for the Government of South Sudan to ensure adherence to international human rights law and international humanitarian law and fulfill its international obligations regarding the protection of the human rights of persons living in Tambura, Western Equatoria State and elsewhere in South Sudan.
Links to the Security Council Briefing and relevant information: https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1o/k1oik7o38h
Link to the joint report of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SS/Tambura-Report.pdf
Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the author of the book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan. Roger is also the Producer and Host of The Weekly Review: Making Sense of News and Relevant Topics. For more, keep in touch with this his website rogeryoronmodi.com