The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was initially established for a period of one year from 9 July 2011, under Security Council Resolution 1996 (2011), with the intent to renew for further periods as needed.
Since then, UNMISS has been renewed consistently with the Security Council determining that the situation in South Sudan continues to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region. Currently, under Resolution 2625 (2022), the Council has extended the UNMISS mandate until 15 March 2023.
As it stands today, the Mission's mandate includes four pillars, namely, protection of civilians; creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; supporting the Implementation of the Revitalised Agreement and the peace process; and, monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of humanitarian and human rights law.
The Council has also determined that UNMISS should continue advancing a three-year strategic vision to prevent a return to civil war, build durable peace and support inclusive, accountable governance and free, fair and peaceful elections in accordance with the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), referendum and independence of South Sudan
On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the newest country in the world. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan culminated from a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), ending more than 20 years of war.
The CPA called for a referendum to take place to determine the status of Southern Sudan. It was held in January 2011, with the overwhelming majority, 98.83% of participants, voting for independence.
Following the subsequent independence of South Sudan in July 2011, the Security Council established UNMISS.
On 15 December 2013, violence broke out in South Sudan’s capital Juba and quickly spread to other locations in the country resulting in a nation-wide political and security crisis. Seven out of the country’s 10 states were affected by the conflict, with Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Upper Nile states being the hardest hit.
The relationship between the Government and UNMISS became increasingly tense, amid mounting anti-United Nations sentiment emanating from misperceptions about the Mission’s role during the crisis. There were unfounded allegations that UNMISS was not impartial and was aiding and abetting anti-government forces. The ability of UNMISS to move freely was obstructed and demonstrations against the United Nations organized in several state capitals.
There were widespread human rights consequences, especially in areas of greatest military confrontation. UNMISS estimated that thousands of people had been killed during the hostilities. Both parties to the conflict were responsible for ethnically targeted attacks on civilians and failed to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.
The humanitarian situation deteriorated sharply. Within the first month of the crisis, almost 500,000 persons were displaced within South Sudan and around 74,300 people had crossed into neighbouring countries. These numbers continued to rise, with total displacement by the end of February 2014 reaching 900,000 persons, including some 167,000 people crossing the country's borders. Civilians who had tipped into the “acute” or “emergency” categories of food insecurity had increased from 1.1 million to 3.2 million. Additionally, some 500,000 displaced people were in urgent need of food aid.
[For details, see UN Secretary-General’s report dated 6 March 2014.]
UNMISS reinforced and reprioritized
When conflict erupted, tens of thousands of civilians fled from areas where large numbers of killings were taking place and arrived at UNMISS compounds in Juba, Bor, Akobo, Bentiu, Malakal and Melut to seek refuge. The Mission opened its gates and its military engineers, working with humanitarian partners, quickly prepared sites in the compounds for the protection of civilians, despite having minimum facilities to accommodate them. Since then, as many as 85,000 civilians sought protection in eight UNMISS compounds across the country.
The massive influx of civilians into United Nations premises was unprecedented and placed a huge strain on UNMISS resources. In order to give the Mission adequate capacity to cope, the Security Council by its Resolution 2132 (2013) of 24 December, approved the Secretary-General’s recommendation to temporarily increase the overall UNMISS troop and police strength.
Reporting to the Security Council on 6 March 2014, the Secretary-General emphasized that it was important to keep this surge capacity deployed for at least 12 months. The Secretary-General also called for UNMISS to temporarily reprioritize its activities and shift from a stand dedicated to peacebuilding, state-building and the extension of state authority, to one of strict impartiality in its relations with both parties.
Going forward, the main focus of the Mission, the Secretary-General suggested, should be on the protection of civilians, human rights and contributing to the creation of security conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, within its capability, in areas most affected by the conflict. The Mission’s impartiality would be the sine qua non of all its actions throughout the country as long as the conflict persisted.
On 27 May 2014, the Security Council, by unanimously adopting Resolution 2155 (2014), reprioritized the UNMISS mandate towards the protection of civilians, human rights monitoring and support for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Council increased the Mission's troop and police strength. It also authorized the deployment within UNMISS of an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) task force to support protection of civilians and the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM), established pursuant to the 23 January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
Transition of UN Protection Sites into conventional camps for displaced people
With the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in 2018 and a transitional government of national unity in place, political violence has greatly reduced across South Sudan. The UN Protection Sites were established to protect civilians in imminent physical danger during intense conflict. But that threat no longer exists today. Therefore, many of these sites are gradually being redesignated as more conventional camps for internally displaced people, under the sovereign control of the Government of South Sudan. UNMISS has followed a long and careful process, planning alongside humanitarians, and in consultation with national and local government, the security services, and the displaced community themselves. The changing political and security situation combined with the ongoing successful redesignation of UN protection sites is enabling the Mission to reach more people in need and build the capacity of local police and the justice system to protect their own citizens. Humanitarian assistance to displaced people continues and nobody is being forced to leave.