Pace of Progress in South Sudan Uneven, as Deeply Rooted Divisions Open Old Wounds, Top Envoy Tells Security Council
6938th Meeting (PM)
Country’s Delegate Says First 18 Months of Independence ‘Have Not Been Easy’
Despite some progress achieved in South Sudan’s transition towards a stable, viable State, internal security challenges and political fault-lines — exacerbated by a recent spate of inter-communal violence — continued to render the new country fragile and threaten peace and security throughout the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative warned the Security Council this afternoon.
“The persistent violence and instability in South Sudan are deeply rooted”, and historical animosities among communities and old divisions and power struggles among political protagonists were pervasive, said Hilde F. Johnson, who is also Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). As a result, she said “new tensions are emerging from old wounds”, and those must be addressed.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNMISS (document S/2013/140), Ms. Johnson, whose briefing was followed by a statement by the Under-Secretary of South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Charles Manyang D’Awol, said that progress made by South Sudan — an impoverished nation that formally split from Sudan in July 2011 — had been uneven since she last addressed the Council in November.
Relations with Sudan remained tense and the continuing proliferation of weapons in South Sudan had serious implications for regional security and stability, she said, adding, however, that agreements this month on the implementation of the 27 September 2012 cooperation accords with Sudan could significantly improve the situation. Plus, an easing of some of the economic austerity measures, with a restart of the oil production, would help to create an environment conductive to progress on other crucial political and security issues.
Still, South Sudan remained afflicted by internal security and political fault-lines, which continued to render the country fragile and which had potential spillover effects, she said. Those challenges, including inter-communal violence in several areas and activities of armed groups in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states, were destabilizing and posed grave threats to the civilian population.
The thousands of civilians seeking refuge in the United Nations camp from violent outbreaks in the country’s Jonglei and Western Bahr el-Ghazal states had highlighted the importance of the UNMISS mandate to protect civilians, she said. The situation in Jonglei, where threats posed by David Yau Yau’s armed military group continued, was also a major concern.
She told the Council that the South Sudanese Government had made clear that the window for dialogue on that front was closing and that military operations might soon be launched. In such a scenario, she said, the civilian population would be at risk from being caught in the crossfire. The United Nations had stressed that any military response must secure the protection of civilians.
Also worrying was the inter-communal tension created by the 8 February deadly attack on a Lou Nuer community in the Walgak area. Allegedly perpetrated by armed youth from the Murle community, the attack had resulted in the killing of more than 100 civilians. Efforts were under way to convince the Lou Nuer youth not to resort to revenge attacks. UNMISS had also developed contingency plans for possible Jonglei state scenarios, with a strengthened troop presence and an increased number of integrated civilian-military patrols.
In that connection, she said that the United Nations’ operating environment had become more difficult due to a number of grave violations by the Government of the Status of Forces Agreement. The most egregious of those occurred on 21 December 2012 when SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) forces shot down an UNMISS helicopter, killing four Russian crew members. The United Nations had urged a swift and transparent investigation by the Government.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan was also challenging, with a constant stream of refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan arriving in the country. More than 14,000 new arrivals had been recorded so far in 2013. Meanwhile, humanitarian actors had continued to report access issues, the presence of weapons in camps and other impediments to their work. Returnees from Sudan also continued to face difficulties with sustainable reintegration.
Despite such hurdles, she pointed to recent progress, such as the establishment of democratic foundations with a proper legal framework for multi-party democracy and elections and concomitant functioning institutions. Work on reviewing the Transitional Constitution was gaining momentum, police reform was continuing, and a reshuffle had taken place in the SPLA and the South Sudan National Police Service.
Concluding her remarks, she said that every effort must be made to keep South Sudan on a path to stability and prosperity, for which the international community’s continued support was needed more than ever.
Also addressing the Council, Mr. D’Awol acknowledged that South Sudan, as the world’s youngest nation, still faced many challenges and the first 18 months of independence had not always been easy. “Developing the structures of Government, establishing State authority and enforcing the rule of law is not the work of one year or even five,” he said. It was a long-term endeavour.
As part of that effort, his country, he said, continued to build its national institutions and make “meaningful” progress on several fronts, despite the many internal and external challenges. A recent extension of the mandate of the National Constitutional Review Commission would allow the widest number of people to participate in the review process. “This is a critical ingredient for effective peacebuilding,” he said, adding that his Government had also started planning for the 2014 census and 2015 elections.
“We recognize that an inclusive, long-term national reconciliation process is sorely needed,” he continued, noted that the Government had committed resources for that purpose. Concerning the “regrettable” inter-communal violence in Western Bahr el Ghazal, his Government was committed to a process of full accountability, and steps had been taken to ensure due process for all detainees. UNMISS had been granted access to detainees in Wau, he added.
It was no secret that relations between South Sudan and Sudan had not been satisfactory, he said, despite that, his country had shown flexibility in post-independence negotiations. However, on 12 March, the two countries had adopted the Implementation Matrix, in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan, which offered a road map for implementing previously signed agreements.
Moreover, the two parties had unconditionally agreed to withdraw their troops to their respective sides of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone — a measureable breakthrough. President Salva Kiir had instructed the Army’s General Chief of Staff to immediately withdraw troops from the buffer zone, and the Armed Forces had begun that process.
On the final status of Abyei and formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission, he said the two parties had agreed that that should be addressed at the presidential level. “It is our sincere hope that the people of Abyei, who have endured long suffering, will at last have their problems resolved and exercise their right of self-determination,” he said.
As South Sudan confronted those enormous tasks before it, he urged its partners to provide peacebuilding support for its efforts. Significant investments by other parties and continued support by UNMISS was required to help South Sudan project its authority and develop its capacity to govern volatile areas, he said.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 3:33 p.m.
For information media • not an official record