The biggest threat facing South Sudan’s development was ethnic division and inter-communal conflicts, UNMISS head Hilde F. Johnson said in her end of year message.
“If everyone puts their community first and really doesn’t care that much about the nation as such, South Sudan can fail,” said Ms. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG).
“One of the most important things for the country as a whole, for the leadership of the new and independent country, is actually unity,” she added. “It is to unify the people in its diversity.”
Following the recent death of Jonglei State rebel militia leader George Athor on 19 December, the SRSG said that she hoped the absence of his operations would calm tensions in that state.
“… he was by far the most important militia leader and the absence of his operations will, I think, have a calming effect both in the state but also potentially politically, nationally, at least in the short term,” she said.
Ms. Johnson said it took time to build a solid foundation for a new and independent country and that UNMISS would do its utmost to support South Sudan in the New Year.
“I hope that 2012 will prove to be a time and year where we will see significant improvements both in the political area and the security area, which is really, really critical, and, not least, in the life of each and every citizen,” she said.
As for UNMISS, the SRSG said that limited resources, inadequate staff and delays in military deployment were undermining the mission’s implementation of its mandate.
“On the military side we actually haven’t got all the forces in yet and we are expecting them out by February,” Ms. Johnson said. “We are acting on our Chapter VII mandate, which is to protect civilians under imminent threat, with troop deployments of significance. So we are deploying in the areas that are most likely to be attacked.”
Speaking about the December 14-15 International Engagement Conference on South Sudan, which she attended in Washington DC, Ms. Johnson said it was a great success in mobilizing international actors and donor support for the country.
“It is also an opportunity for the government to really present what their commitment is in many areas – in good governance, transparency, accountability and strengthening the credibility of the government…,” she said.
Following this conference, the Republic of South Sudan made a commitment to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which supports improved governance in resource-rich countries through verification and full publication of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining.