Report from Panel of Experts on South Sudan to UN Security Council, April 2017 (PDF)
Summary: Final report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan to the UN Security Council, April 2017
The de facto collapse of the transitional government of national unity envisaged in the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan of August 2015, as described in the Panel’s reports of September and November 2016 (S/2016/793 and S/2016/963), has left South Sudan with a political arrangement between the President, Salva Kiir, and the First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai, that does not meaningfully include significant segments of the opposition, other political factions and many influential non-Dinka community leaders. This arrangement is consequently not nationally unifying, has not arrested the security and humanitarian crisis and is increasingly an obstacle to genuine political reconciliation, undermining the transition to the inclusive and sustainable peace envisaged in resolutions 2206 (2015) and 2290 (2016).
The leadership and the country as a whole continue to fracture between and within tribes, as evidenced by a number of recent high-profile resignations from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Opposition in February 2017, notably of one of the most prominent (and one of the last) senior Equatorian officers in SPLA, Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, who launched his own armed opposition movement in March. Notwithstanding some recent statements by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development of a collective position, the regional body has also fractured in its response to the conflict, and coordinated pressure within the region to enforce the Agreement has dissipated in favour of bilateral arrangements between its members and SPLM/A in Government, dictated by these States’ national security and economic interests.
While SPLM/A in Government, SPLM/A in Opposition and other armed groups undertook military operations, including the targeting of civilians, throughout 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, by far the largest-scale campaigns have been planned and executed by SPLM/A in Government under the leadership of Kiir. These campaigns — in Upper Nile, Unity, Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Jonglei, as well as in greater Equatoria — have followed a consistent tactical pattern since the major government offensives in 2015, namely a combination of tribal militia and Dinka SPLA forces (with SPLA now including a Dinka militia commonly r eferred to as the “Mathiang Anyoor”) supported by heavy weapons, such as Mi-24 attack helicopters, that the government has procured since the beginning of the war.
As anticipated in the Panel’s interim report, these military operations have constituted an escalation of the war in multiple areas during the dry season, the consequences of which are starkly illustrated by the accelerating displacement of the population, most notably — during the period since November — from greater Equatoria. At least 25 per cent of the population have been forced from their homes since December 2013. As at 28 February 2017, more than 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced and more than 1.6 million had fled the country — an increase of almost 280,000 internally displaced persons and 670,000 refugees since the Panel’s interim report.
In its previous reports, the Panel presented evidence of widespread violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by all parties between the outbreak of the war in December 2013 and November 2016. The Panel has concluded that these trends have continued unabated, with nearcomplete impunity and a lack of any credible effort to prevent the violations or to S/2017/326 17-04364 3/51 punish the perpetrators. In addition to the Panel, at least four other United Nations agencies and investigations have documented the significant increase in tribal violence during and since the de facto collapse of the transitional government in July 2016.
While SPLM/A in Government, including Kiir, has made several public commitments in recent months to allowing unhindered humanitarian assistance, including in a joint communiqué with the Security Council in September 2016, the aid response continues to be obstructed, mainly by SPLM/A in Government. South Sudan remains the deadliest country in the world for humanitarian workers, with the number of reported humanitarian access incidents spiking significantly in the second half of 2016.
The famine declared in two counties of Unity in February 2017 — the implications of which are that at least 100,000 people are d ying of starvation and a further 1 million are near starvation — underscores the severity of the humanitarian emergency. The bulk of the evidence suggests that the famine, which had been predicted for two years, has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of military operations undertaken by the leadership in Juba, the denial of humanitarian access, primarily by SPLM/A in Government, and population displacement resulting from the war.
The scale and scope of the political, humanitarian and economic crises notwithstanding, the Panel continues to uncover evidence of the continuing procurement of weapons by SPLM/A in Government for SPLA, the National Security Service and other associated forces and militias. There is some, largely testimonial, evidence of arms acquisitions by opposition groups, but these supplies appear to have been limited to comparatively low numbers of small arms and light weapons and ammunition.
The political and tribal fractures described herein, although destructive for most South Sudanese, have become the default strategy for some of the country’s most prominent political and military figures. This strategy undermines organized, collective resistance to these actors’ control and ensures that they mainta in their dominance and access to the country’s resources. It also ensures that they are able to prevent genuine reforms, credible financial oversight and, ultimately, accountability for the crimes committed against the South Sudanese people, as documented by the Panel and multiple other independent investigations, including the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan.
In addition to the confidential annex presented to the Committee in January 2016, the Panel provided evidence in its reports of 2016 of multiple other individuals responsible for or complicit in the actions and policies described in paragraph 9 of resolution 2290 (2016).