South Sudan

Amid Fresh Fighting in South Sudan, Peacekeeping Chief Urges Security Council to Demand Change of Course by Leaders, Those Fomenting Violence


Half the Population Will Need Food by 2018 Says Emergency Relief Coordinator

The precarious security situation in South Sudan was a matter of grave concern, the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today, urging it to use all means necessary to demand a change of course from leaders and parties to the conflict.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix said that as the dry season would soon set in, the conflict could escalate, as well as intercommunal fighting. In that challenging environment, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had endeavoured to be more robust, nimble and proactive. Peacekeepers had helped protect humanitarian facilities, facilitated aid delivery and evacuated humanitarian personnel. They had intervened to protect civilians from abduction, recruitment, sexual violence and harassment, while Mission patrols had reached areas where they had long been denied access.

Since the setback to the peace process in July 2016, a new wave of armed conflict had spread into the Equatorias, he said. In 2017, major clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the opposition had shifted towards Greater Upper Nile. At the same time, clashes continued in the Equatorias and Western Bahr el Ghazal. The last two weeks had seen renewed fighting in southern Unity between opposition forces allied to Riek Machar and those affiliated with First Vice-President Taban Deng. Fragmentation of the opposition remained a source of instability, with intercommunal fighting impacting the security situation.

Regional partners had stepped up efforts to revitalize the peace process, he said, welcoming the support of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led High Level Revitalization Forum — which aimed to secure a cessation of hostilities and implementation of the 2016 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan — and efforts by the African Union. At the local level, the national dialogue was progressing, with sub-national consultations held on the causes of the conflict. While the United Nations had reiterated the importance of complementarity between the national dialogue and implementation of the Peace Agreement, which should be transparent and inclusive, fighting continued.

He recalled that in March, the Council had laid out five benchmarks to be met immediately: adherence to the permanent ceasefire by all forces; addressing the challenges faced by humanitarian personnel; unconditional support of all parties for the efforts of the United Nations, African Union and IGAD towards implementation of the Peace Agreement; removal of obstacles to UNMISS and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism; and cessation of obstruction to and attacks on all national and international humanitarian personnel.

Also briefing the Council, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the conclusions of the South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2018 were bleak. Although more than two million people had fled South Sudan, seven million people — almost two thirds of the remaining population — still needed humanitarian assistance. About 1.9 million people were internally displaced, of whom some 210,000 had sought safety in the Protection of Civilians sites on UNMISS bases. Some 1.25 million people were in the emergency phase of food insecurity. In early 2018, half of the population would require emergency food. March would likely see famine conditions in several locations.

He said that only one in 10 people had access to basic sanitation. Two million children were out of school, and in every household, a woman or girl had experienced gender-based violence in the past year. The suffering in South Sudan was primarily the result of actions by the parties in the conflict. Food insecurity was directly linked to restrictions on the freedom of movement. The conflict’s impact on agricultural production had been particularly severe in Greater Equatoria. Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations continued to be perpetrated by both the SPLA and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO).

Many Government workers had not been paid for months, he said. Aid workers were paying with their lives to deliver assistance. At least 95 humanitarian workers had been killed since the start of the conflict, and at least 28 this year. Last week, six non-governmental organization (NGO) workers were killed in an attack in Jonglei’s Duk county, alongside nearly 40 civilians.

Allowing and facilitating rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access for civilians in need was an obligation for all parties, he said. Yet, that duty was regularly and flagrantly ignored. The situation would worsen without the consistent and timely provision of aid and close monitoring. In recent weeks, the Government, as well as opposition forces and non-State armed actors, had interfered with aid delivery. More than 500 humanitarian workers across the country had been relocated for extended periods of time, he said, adding that humanitarian organizations did not relocate staff lightly.

He said President Salva Kiir’s Republican Order for the Free, Unimpeded and Unhindered Movement of Humanitarian Assistance Convoys must be translated into action. Despite the challenges, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners had reached five million people. More than 2.1 million people had gained access to clean water and nearly 400,000 had received gender-based violence services. An additional humanitarian corridor had been opened from Sudan last month. However, until international humanitarian law was respected, the fighting was stopped and basic services were established, humanitarian needs would continue to grow. UNMISS efforts could not replace or substitute for the responsibilities of the host Government.

He called on Council members to use their influence to ensure that parties complied with their international humanitarian law obligations to respect and protect civilians, including humanitarian workers, and that they allowed and facilitated relief operations, and access to both assistance and protection.

Ismail Wais, Special Envoy of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, described preparations for the High Level Revitalization Forum of the Parties to the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. Following broad consultations with stakeholders in South Sudan’s peace progress, substantial progress had been made towards the convening of the Forum. In total, 48 different stakeholders had made submissions.

He said stakeholders had offered proposals for a new transitional Government, including maintaining the status quo; returning to the status quo ante 8 July 2016; reconstituting the Agreement to include new parties; establishing a new transitional Government of technocrats; and establishing a hybrid transitional Government of technocrats and politicians. Moreover, three key proposals were advanced for State restructuring: invoking the current number of states and reverting to 10 states; maintain the 32 states and renegotiate a new power-sharing arrangement based on that number; and lastly, reverting to the three regions of Bahr El Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile.

Regarding an interim Government, he said some stakeholders had demanded that the status quo of the Transitional Government of National Unity be maintained until the end of the current transitional period. Meanwhile, alternative proposals had been made for the current governance system to be restructured into a federal or confederal system. He also noted that stakeholders had demanded a cessation of hostilities before the Forum, and proposed that all parties and estranged groups sign a political charter committing to non-violence ahead of the event.

He stressed that the Forum’s success depended on the following factors: inclusivity, cessation of hostilities and permanent ceasefire; political will; unified position of the opposition; leadership of IGAD and its credibility as an arbiter; robust enforcement mechanisms; gender parity and women’s participation, as well as the participation of Rick Machar; the coordination of concurrent political initiatives; the SPLM re-unification process and revitalization; and wider consultations and transparency. In terms of a timeline for the transitional period, stakeholders had suggested that a new transitional period would require four years to deliver effective transition to democratic elections.

After the briefings, Akuei Bona Malwal (South Sudan) affirmed his Government’s commitment to the High-Level Revitalization Forum. The Government would attend the meeting with IGAD’s Council of Ministers and the Summit on 16 and 17 December with an open mind, hopeful that all parties would recommit to fully implementing the Peace Agreement.

He also noted that his Government had met with the UNMISS Review Team on 4 December in Juba, the first time it had been consulted on the Mission’s mandate. In a frank and open meeting, the Government had made several proposals regarding the future UNMISS mandate, including its desire to see the Mission engage in the capacity building of human resources and institutions, and to commission needed development projects.

Luis Homero Bermúdez Álvarez (Uruguay) said the future of South Sudan was at a critical point. Although all parties had made commitments, there had been a dearth of action. They would now have an opportunity to commit to a resolution at the High Level Forum. It was essential for parties to immediately end their hostilities, he said, pressing the Government to lift restrictions on the Mission and humanitarian agents. A strategic assessment of the UNMISS mandate would allow the Council to make decisions about the Mission. Displaced people in the Protection Sites faced the dilemma of remaining there without the ability to work, or returning home at the high risk of being robbed, sexually attacked or killed, he said.

Juan Marcelo Zambrana Torrelio (Bolivia) expressed support for the IGAD initiative, noting that the inclusive character of the Forum was encouraging. He called on the people of South Sudan to establish a national dialogue and a timeline for elections. It was essential for the Government and parties to ensure humanitarian access for the entire territory, he said, expressing support for a two‑month mandate renewal for UNMISS while an assessment was being completed, and hope that the Mission would adopt a more robust presence in areas of conflict.

The meeting started at 10:02 a.m. and adjourned at 10:53 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.