Board Update Draft — SS
FINISHING STRONG: Maintaining pressure on South Sudan leaders to implement the peace agreement fully
Ahead of our planned exit from our South Sudan campaign, in May we coordinated a successful campaign that persuaded the United Nations Security Council to adopt resolution 2521 (2020) renewing the arms embargo and targeted sanctions regime on South Sudan until 31 May, 2021. The resolution further requested the UN Secretariat to provide a report assessing the role of the embargo in facilitating the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The goal: to send a clear signal to the leaders of South Sudan of sustained international attention and concern that the long-negotiated peace agreement be fully implemented and that there is readiness to act against those that undermine or impede the peace process.
The Council result, with 12 member states voting in favor and 3 abstaining, made it the largest vote in support of the arms embargo since it was applied to South Sudan in 2018. The campaign succeeded in persuading previously undecided Council members (Vietnam, Indonesia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Niger) to vote in support of renewal, and ensured that South Africa abstained instead of opposing the resolution. South Africa’s abstention in turn helped prevent China and Russia from vetoing the resolution.
South Sudanese civil society and policymakers commended the UN’s decision, while policymakers in New York and Juba highlighted the value of civil society’s efforts in ensuring overwhelming support for the embargo’s renewal. A US official told us: “None of our efforts here would be possible without your support and advocacy.”
This outcome was made possible by a number of private and public actions coordinated by Crisis Action, including:
- Engaging prominent African leaders, former Presidents H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) and H.E. John Mahama (Ghana), to appeal privately to President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki respectively to urge them to support the renewal of the arms embargo. Lakhdar Brahimi, a member of the Elders also called the AU Commission Chairperson reiterating the message. And the rest of the Elders echoed this in a public call on social media
- Coordinating, with Amnesty International, a private telebriefing for UNSC members by a representative of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum;
- Facilitating the delivery of a personalized private letter co-signed by the South Sudan Civil Society Forum, the Women and Youth Coalition to each UNSC member; as well as distributing a briefing paper making the case for maintaining the embargo. This included a letter tailored specifically to the Chinese mission to the UN offering to convene a bilateral virtual briefing between the Chinese mission and our South Sudanese partners. The US Ambassador to South Sudan commented that “the private letter is a good reflection of the voice of the South Sudanese people” while the UK Ambassador to South Sudan said he hoped that “that the voices of South Sudanese will be heard in our discussions in NY.” The Chinese delegation declined the offer of a briefing but we judged the letter and offer had some influence on China.
- Placing an op-ed by South African politician Thozamile Botha in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian;
- Drafting an open letter to the UN Security Council from leading African civil society leaders, including former UN Special Rapporteur Maini Kiai.
Exiting from South Sudan
As part of our planned exit from campaigning on South Sudan, we compiled and shared a directory of contacts of CSOs, policy makers, experts and media to help facilitate connections and continued collaboration. Our office in Nairobi will maintain a watching brief on the situation in South Sudan monitoring for any change that would trigger our re-engagement.
We are also launching a ‘Learning Lab’ on our South Sudan work, tasking our long-standing Nairobi office staff member Davis Makori to capture the story of our South Sudan work, along with all the lessons we’ve learnt along the way.
Finally, our China team remains engaged on South Sudan – see more in board paper 255.