Update April-May 2023

Impunity drives ongoing cycles of violence in South Sudan.[1] Despite most violence being framed as intercommunal, much of it is driven by the political elite over access to power and financial resources, using armed actors such as armed militias and community defence forces as proxies to weaken opposition groups.[2] An April 2023 report by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (CHRSS) identified the need to tackle impunity for serious crimes, as this is a “central driver of violence and misery faced by civilians”. In many cases, state actors are the main perpetrators. The report identified serving government officials and military officers, including Unity State Governor Joseph Monytuil and Lieutenant General Thoi Chany Reat of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, South Sudan’s army and formerly the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and called for a an effective investigation into extrajudicial killings committed with ample evidence, as crimes were captured on camera and posted on social media.[3]

In its annual report, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported that there was an overall decrease in the number of incidents when compared to the previous year; however incidents have turned more deadly. There was a worrisome 95% increase in conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls.[4] 

South Sudanese authorities recommitted to a 24-month extension of the country’s transition process. This delayed the country’s elections, which were meant to take place in late 2022, until 2024.[5] Tensions escalated among the leading parties when President Salva Kiir, leader of the SPLA, made changes to the Cabinet which included the removal of the SPLM-In Opposition Defense Minister Angelina Teny, wife of Vice President Riek Machar, in what Machar considered a violation of the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement.[6]

International response:

The United Nations Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the CHRSS until April 2024[7], in a move opposed by the government of South Sudan, as well as opposition to the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) which it committed to in the 2015 and 2018 peace agreements, exacerbating impunity for perpetrators.[8] In May, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution to renew the sanctions regime which expires on 31 May.[9]

[1] UN News, “Impunity drives cycles of ‘horrific’ crimes in South Sudan, Human Rights Council hears,” 7 March 2023, https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/03/1134257

[2] Amnesty International, “South Sudan’s conflicts are not just between communities,” 30 March 2023, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/03/violent-conflicts-in-south-sudan-almost-always-involve-human-rights-violations-and-abuses-and-crimes-under-international-law/

[3] UN News, “South Sudan: Impunity Driving Violence in South Sudan, UN Rights Commission Says,” 3 April 2023, https://allafrica.com/stories/202304040049.html

[4] UNMISS, More South Sudanese civilian victims recorded in 2022 compared to 2021, though killings, violent incidents show decrease-UN report, 17 March 2023, https://unmiss.unmissions.org/more-south-sudanese-civilian-victims-recorded-2022-compared-2021-though-killings-violent-incidents

[5] Associated Press, “South Sudan again delays its 1st election, until late 2024,” 4 August 2022, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-africa-sudan-south-juba-4f35064ef1173a9e14f6e60f55d36b50

[6] Associated Press, “South Sudan’s president dismisses political rival’s wife,” 4 March 2023, https://apnews.com/article/south-sudan-president-0bbec07fdbdb167224d057d11184018e

[7] UNHRC, Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/co-h-south-sudan/index

[8] Amnesty International, “South Sudan’s conflicts are not just between communities”, 30 March 2023, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/03/violent-conflicts-in-south-sudan-almost-always-involve-human-rights-violations-and-abuses-and-crimes-under-international-law/.

[9] Security Council Report, May 2023 Monthly Forecast – South Sudan, 30 April 2023, https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/monthly-forecast/2023-05/south-sudan-23.php