Interview with Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
The Under-Secretary-General (USG) in charge of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Hervé Ladsous, arrived in Juba South Sudan on Friday.
He is here to visit the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), check on the implementation of the peace accord; assess progress made in setting up of the Transitional Government of National Unity and visited the Bentiu and Malakal.
The UN Peacekeeping Chief spoke with Radio Miraya Reporter Alex Agole, in this exclusive Interview.
Radio Miraya: Could you tell us more about the purpose of your visit to South Sudan?
Hervé Ladsous: The purpose was threefold; the first one was to evaluate the situation now that the transitional Government of National Unity of South Sudan has come into function and to look at what now lies ahead regarding the implementation of the peace agreement. The second off course was to illustrate the fact that the United Nations stays strongly committed to tasks that need to be done in South Sudan. We are in New York very committed to support UNMISS, because after all we are here to help the South Sudanese in making the peace agreement a reality in the country, and finally i wanted to take stock of the situation regarding the protection of civilians. We still have large numbers of Internally Displaced Persons who are on our bases and that’s why I went to Bentiu and Malakal, to see how things were going including their interaction with our blue helmets and blue berets.
Radio Miraya: Your last visit to South Sudan was with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in February. The message then, was for the quick establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity. This was set up in April. What are your comments on the implementation process?
Hervé Ladsous: I would say that the message now is that now that the Transitional Government of National Unity has been put in place, now the priority is to implement the provisions of the agreement and to implement quickly, because what the people no doubt are expecting are what one calls the ‘dividends of peace.’ They want to see how this peace agreement actually changes their lives in terms of security, in terms of a better livelihood, we all know that this cannot happen just by waving a magic wand, but i think it is very important that the work gets really kick-started and in particular that the transitional institutions can be put in place. From the point of security, one particular critical institution is the joint integrated police and that i think has been the subject of announcement yesterday and it is clear that police will play a critical role to ensure that law and order prevail in Juba, and it will help give a sense of greater confidence to the communities as they interact.
So the fact that the Minister of interior gave an order on that on the 24th of May, that the Vice President made a statement on this point yesterday, all that i think is very important. It is only a start but let me say again that the United Nations – UNMISS, are closely engaged in supporting all that process along with all the other international partners of South Sudan, in particular the JMEC.
Radio Miraya: Is the United Nations Mission in South Sudan facing any challenges in implementing its mandate in South Sudan? If so which types are they and how could they be mitigated?
Hervé Ladsous: The setting of the Transitional Government of National Unity, creates a new situation and one that we hope that will be conducive to convincing the IDPs who are on our Protection of Civilians sites that it is now safe for them to go back home.
It has been interesting that in Bentiu, over the last four months no less than twenty five thousand IDPs have actually returned to their places, to actually prepare their next crops; sow the seeds and that i think is an encouraging sign and one that we would like to see imitated in other sites, That would be the best indication that trust is appearing again and confidence in the future.
Off course it has to happen on a totally voluntary basis, it has to happen in dignity and we have to see what we can do to monitor the process and possibly continue to give some sense of not abandonment by the UN once they are back into the communities. So we have for that to be more visible in those areas, we have to increase the patrols by the military, the police and off course we have to see that our humanitarian colleagues can actually deliver the aid to the people, who are not any more in our camps but in the villages where the people come from. That is exactly the goal and we hope that the trend will continue. Off course it supposes that the Government does its part and that it grants us continued access, in particular for the humanitarian actors. This has been an issue for quite a bit of time but i will take this up with my interlocutors tomorrow and i trust that we can find common agreement to make sure that this does not happen anymore.
Radio Miraya: You have just returned from a visit to Malakal. In February we witnessed conflict at the Protection of Civilian site which claimed the lives of 25 civilians. What can you say about the situation today and the ongoing investigation?
Hervé Ladsous: First a lot of work has gone into ensuring that those civilians who had actually sought refuge in the logistics base, are now back in the sites dedicated to the protection of civilians. it’s been a very difficult endeavor and it has been a difficult endeavor also to strengthen the surroundings of the Protection of Civilian sites, by protecting i mean; ensuring that some of the elements that caused the crisis in February are not there, that is to say that the boom is not broken, that the fence is not cut through and that proper control, proper patrolling can take place, that has been a lot of ongoing work.
We also have been engaging with the local authorities and with the community leaders to in the words of the Head of the Office in Malakal, in order to build bridges, Bridges of understanding between these people and us the international community at large so that understand what it is we can do, what it is that we cannot do, what is it that we should do. All this is very important process and again i have to say that the hope is that the people will gain trust in the future and will actually make decision to eventually return.
On the investigation process, it is true that the Secretary General has established both a board of inquiry to look at the way the mission responded and also a special investigation to establish the circumstances that led to this event. Both reports are being finalized, they will be submitted to the Secretary General, i cannot say anymore at this point.
Radio Miraya: What would be your message to the people of South Sudan particularly in regard to the implementation of the Peace agreement?
Hervé Ladsous: I would say that i am deeply and painfully aware that over the last two and a half years, the people of South Sudan have probably suffered, vastly more than they did at any point during the decades and years of civil war. That cannot be forgotten or just pushed aside. At the same time, i think the prospects now for the implementation of the peace agreement, the setting of the government of Transitional Unity, all this gives rise to a lot of hope; hope that the country can recover from this very deep crisis it experienced almost after its birth and that collectively, the South Sudanese with our support can address all the deep issues that still exist in terms of governance and institutional building, in terms of putting together all the elements that could open a bright future for a country, which we should never forget, a country that has such a potential, it has immense fertile land, it has water, it has sunshine, it even has oil. No so many countries in Africa can boast of such a combination.
So I think we should be really optimistic that things will get together and that the people of South Sudan can embrace again hope, that’s what it, is about.