South Sudan

Marking a Decade of Independence, South Sudan Faces Slow Progress, Lingering Violence, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

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SC/14556

SECURITY COUNCIL
8801ST MEETING* (AM)

Permanent Representative Stresses Need for State-Building Assistance, Citing Attacks in Areas Not under Juba’s Control

Despite progress made towards accountability and political stability, the senior United Nations official in South Sudan told the Security Council today that significant security and humanitarian challenges remain, as members diverged on the utility of sanctions still imposed on the world’s youngest country.

Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in that country (document S/2021/566) for the first time since taking up the role in April. Noting that South Sudan will mark the tenth anniversary of its independence on 9 July, he detailed the progress the country has made in recent weeks towards implementing the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement. Namely, a task force was established to coordinate transitional justice, the national legislature was reconstituted and a permanent Constitution‑drafting process was officially launched in the capital, Juba.

Despite those strides, however, he reported that “the overall implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement is progressing slowly”. The formation of the legislature remains incomplete and transitional security arrangements remain behind schedule as troops in cantonment and training sites face inadequate shelter, health care and food. Further, weak or absent State governance has allowed spoilers to exploit “perennial communal and ethnic cleavages”, while entrenched insecurity contributes to a vicious cycle of livestock raiding and subsequent food insecurity. A weakened rule of law and flagging economic conditions have resulted in increased criminality and the targeting of humanitarian workers.

Against that backdrop, he said UNMISS is taking the lead in facilitating the delivery of life-saving services. Recalling his recent meetings with senior Government officials in Juba, he said local authorities want more assistance in tackling subnational conflicts and the negative impact of the widespread presence of firearms. To that end, UNMISS will continue to provide physical protection as required and will establish a task force to address climate-related security concerns. He stressed, however, that the Mission will require concerted support from the United Nations and regional partners, including the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Rajab Mohandis, Executive Director and co-founder of the Organization for Responsive Governance, also briefing the Council, recalled that South Sudan, at the time of its independence, had the resources and institutions necessary to govern itself. That potential was squandered, however, due to ineffective political leadership and neglect of the principles that guided the struggle for liberation. “[Leadership] has been grossly lacking in South Sudan since the country became independent,” he stated, adding: “As it stands now, there is no clarity as to where the country is heading.”

The State has failed to perform basic functions, he said, including maintaining security, enforcing law and order, delivering necessary services to the population and resolving multiple conflicts. Urging the country to learn from the last 10 years, he stressed that South Sudanese who genuinely represent the suffering masses must be at the core of all future solutions. The Council, he added, must coordinate with IGAD, the African Union and other actors in the international community to “raise the cost of wilful sabotage” of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members commended UNMISS efforts to protect civilians and support peacebuilding in South Sudan and echoed briefers’ calls for coordination among the Council, African Union and IGAD to enhance implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. Many also expressed concern that full realization of that Agreement has been delayed, despite some progress made. Others, instead, insisted that recent achievements be recognized, and urged the Council to re-examine its sanctions architecture in light of those positive developments.

In that vein, the representative of Viet Nam spotlighted the functioning of central and local government, a largely holding permanent ceasefire and recent reconstitution of the transitional legislature as successes that should lead the Council to encourage — rather than pressure — the South Sudanese parties. The international community must increase humanitarian assistance and financial support to South Sudan, with sanctions only used as a temporary measure to facilitate conditions conducive to peace, he stressed.

Similarly, China’s representative called on the Council to lift sanctions against South Sudan to send a positive message, noting that the Transitional Government has overcome numerous difficulties to lay the foundation for lasting peace. Implementing the 2018 Peace Agreement cannot be achieved overnight, he stressed, urging the international community to meet South Sudan’s humanitarian needs and help eliminate the root causes of intercommunal conflict.

The representative of the United States, however, described claims that the United Nations arms embargo prevents the Transitional Government from making progress towards stability as disingenuous, pointing out that exemption procedures exist within the sanctions regime for materiel needed to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement. He called on national authorities to cease obstruction of UNMISS’ ceasefire monitoring and view the Mission as “a full partner in the process of transition”.

The representative of Kenya, speaking for the group of countries known informally as the “A3+1” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), urged the Council to reflect on whether UNMISS is achieving its mandate. Consolidating peace through State- and institution-building must remain a top priority, he stressed, and the Mission must focus on supporting the peace process, including through technical and logistical support for implementing the 2018 Peace Agreement.

Also addressing the Council, South Sudan’s representative underscored the necessity of State-building assistance, pointing out that recent attacks on humanitarian workers and peacekeepers occurred in territory not under Government control. He urged the international community to assist his country in rebuilding its capacity, stressing: “Keep your money, but bring your expertise.”

Also speaking were representatives of India, United Kingdom, Norway, Russian Federation, Ireland, Mexico, France and Estonia.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:41 a.m.

Briefings

NICHOLAS HAYSOM, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), noting that South Sudan will mark the tenth anniversary of its independence on 9 July, said the world’s youngest nation made progress in implementing its 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement in recent weeks. That included establishing a task force to coordinate transitional justice, reconstituting the national legislature and officially launching a permanent Constitution‑drafting process in the capital, Juba. Furthermore, a site dedicated to the protection of civilians in the city of Bentiu was redesignated as a camp for internally displaced persons, freeing up peacekeepers to deploy in more remote locations and enhancing confidence and stability in areas of return. Noting that UNMISS will continue to provide physical protection as required and support elections, he stressed that the Mission will require concerted support from the United Nations and regional partners.

Despite the progress made, he reported that “the overall implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement is progressing slowly”. Pointing out that the formation of the legislature remains incomplete, he encouraged the Government to complete that process while ensuring adequate representation of women and youth at all levels. Similarly, transitional security arrangements remain behind schedule as troops continue to suffer in cantonment and training sites without adequate shelter, health care and food. He stressed that a coherent command and control structure must be finalized, followed by the graduation of the unified forces, as pervasive insecurity — particularly intercommunal violence — continues to obstruct the realization of durable, sustainable peace in South Sudan.

In that vein, he said that, while UNMISS’ continuous analysis of its threat response, commitment to a highly mobile posture and pre‑emptive deployment to conflict hotspots have reduced violence and civilian casualties compared to 2020, weak or absent State governance throughout South Sudan has allowed spoilers to exploit “perennial communal and ethnic cleavages”. Meanwhile, that entrenched insecurity hinders the cultivation of crops and contributes to a vicious cycle of livestock raiding, and weakened rule of law and economic pressures result in increased criminality and the targeting of humanitarian workers. To date, 2021 has seen four aid workers killed and millions of dollars of humanitarian supplies looted or destroyed. UNMISS continues to take the lead in promoting and advocating for safe conditions that allow the delivery of life-saving services.

Recalling his recent meeting with senior Government officials in Juba and with South Sudanese people throughout the country, he said local authorities want more assistance in tackling subnational conflicts and the widespread presence of firearms. Further, the lack of infrastructure and recent extreme flooding have made access to many parts of the country challenging. In response, UNMISS intends to establish a task force to address climate-related security concerns. Detailing the Mission’s three-year strategic vision, he concluded that the Mission remains “well placed to execute our mandate”.

RAJAB MOHANDIS, Executive Director and co-founder of the Organization for Responsive Governance, recalled that South Sudan, at the time of its independence, had resources, institutions, professionals and the legal frameworks needed to govern itself, deliver basic services and set off on the path to development. Unfortunately, all that potential was quickly squandered, leading to State fragility and failure. Citing two main reasons for that negative shift, he drew attention to ineffective political leadership and neglect of the very principles that guided the struggle for the country’s liberation and independence. Those factors also caused a meltdown in all other sectors, including politics, governance, security and the economy. “Leadership is almost everything a country needs in order to make progress,” he pointed out, adding: “This has been grossly lacking in South Sudan since the country became independent and as it stands now, there is no clarity as to where the country is heading.”

Noting that the country had descended into multiple civil wars barely 30 months into its independence — making it even more difficult to realize the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence — he said the State has failed to perform its basic functions of Government. That includes maintaining security for itself and for all citizens; enforcing law and order; delivering services to the population; and meaningfully resolving the multiple conflicts in the country. On the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, he said 33 of the 44 months of the original timeline have elapsed without achieving key milestones. Deploring that the transitional security arrangements have been delayed, he said not a single soldier of the initially agreed 83,000 necessary unified forces having been graduated, and due to acute shortage of food and medicines, troops have been deserting their cantonment sites and training centres. On another front, most of the parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement have not been meeting the 35 per cent quota for women required in the institutions of the Government of National Unity.

Urging South Sudan to learn from the past 10 years, he said the country needs to chart a new and clear path for the next decade. South Sudanese who genuinely represent the suffering masses need to be at the core of the solutions moving forward. The full spectrum of civil society, including faith-based leaders, women, youth, professional groups and business community, must demand that the leaders in the Government of National Unity effectively discharge their mandates as stipulated in the Constitution and the 2018 Peace Agreement. The people should demand and ensure that their country is governed on the basis of the principles that informed the struggle for its liberation and independence. Meanwhile, the Council should support any relevant initiative to address the crisis. United Nations support may come in many forms, with the Council jointly working with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African Union and other actors in the international community to “raise the cost of wilful sabotage” of the Peace Agreement, he stressed.

Statements

RODNEY HUNTER (United States) commended UNMISS’ work in protecting civilians, deterring violence, supporting peacebuilding and advocating for human rights. He expressed concern, however, over the delayed implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, calling on the transitional Government to deliver on its commitments to draft a Constitution and to develop the necessary framework to hold free, fair, timely and peaceful elections. Further, it must graduate the necessary unified forces and establish a joint command for them. Claims that the United Nations arms embargo prevents that progress are disingenuous, he said, pointing out that exemption procedures exist for the materiel needed to implement the 2018 Peace Agreement. He called on national authorities to ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian workers and internally displaced persons; cease obstructing UNMISS’ ceasefire monitoring; and view the Mission as “a full partner in the process of transition”.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) described recent developments in South Sudan as encouraging. However, humanitarian needs are growing and the international community must close a funding gap that exceeds $1 billion. Violations of the Status of Forces Agreement must be addressed soon by the Transitional Government in cooperation with UNMISS. Also urging the Mission to make progress on the transition of the Malakal protection of civilians site, he noted that India is among the largest troop contributors to UNMISS, with 135 of its personnel receiving United Nations medals for outstanding performance. “South Sudan is on the cusp of an historic moment,” he said, encouraging the Council to enable the country’s emergence as a confident nation with whole-hearted support from IGAD, African Union, United Nations and the entire international community.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) highlighted progress in South Sudan, including in the functioning of central and local government, the holding of the permanent ceasefire and the recent reconstitution of the transitional legislature. While overall implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement remains limited, those achievements should be recognized, especially as the country continues to face such challenges as COVID-19, natural disasters, intercommunal violence and food insecurity. Stressing that the South Sudanese parties should be encouraged rather than pressured, he called on the Government and relevant parties to step up implementation of the 2018 Agreement, further facilitate women’s participation and leadership in the transitional process and increase efforts to address intercommunal violence. Commending the work of UNMISS and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to protect civilians and clear mines in the country, he urged the international community to strengthen its humanitarian assistance and financial support to South Sudan. Council sanctions, on the other hand, “should only be a temporary tool for promoting conditions conducive to the maintenance of international peace and security in special situations”.

MICHAEL KIBOINO (Kenya), also speaking on behalf of Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, commended the people of South Sudan for the progress being made in implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement. However, he expressed concern at the slow pace of transitional security arrangements, the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and the creation of a proper management system for weapons stockpiles. He also pointed to the dire humanitarian situation, including an alarming level of food insecurity worsened by drought and intercommunal violence. International partners should do more to help South Sudan overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, adding that the Government must ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and facilitate aid deliveries.

As South Sudan marks its tenth anniversary, consolidating peace through State- and institution-building must remain a top priority, he said. In that regard, he welcomed the launch of a permanent Constitution‑drafting process and encouraged the authorities to engage with the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. He also called for more international support, emphasizing that the peace process is costly and complex and requires time, resources and strong political commitment. Turning to UNMISS, he urged the Council to reflect on whether the Mission is achieving its mandate. Going forward, it must focus on supporting the peace process, including through technical and logistical support for implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement, he said.

DAI BING (China) stressed that South Sudan must seize the tenth anniversary of its independence as a new starting point, while the international community should continue to expend its support. The Transitional Government has overcome numerous difficulties to lay the foundation for lasting peace. Implementing the 2018 Peace Agreement is a complex task that cannot be achieved overnight, he said, calling on the Council to lift its sanctions against the country and send a positive message. The international community should continue to enhance its assistance to meet South Sudan’s humanitarian needs and help eliminate the root causes of intercommunal conflict. To that point, he noted that China has long provided various types of support, including food and medical supplies, while contributing to infrastructure building in South Sudan.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) said the greatest tragedy is that South Sudan’s dire humanitarian situation is largely man-made and was preventable. Calling on the Government to take responsibility and act in genuine partnership with the donor community to resolve the crisis, he noted that the United Kingdom is among the biggest international donors of aid to South Sudan. However, it is Juba that must tackle corruption, drive economic reform and respect the Status of Forces Agreement. Urging the South Sudanese authorities to take action to guarantee the safety of those delivering life-saving assistance and to hold perpetrators to account, he warned that, if they fail to do so, the Council will need to consider new sanctions listings. Welcoming the Council’s recent renewal of the arms embargo, sanctions regime and Panel of Experts mandate, he encouraged the authorities to take forward tasks in the arms embargo benchmarks, including the establishment of the necessary unified force with a genuinely unified command.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said that, despite important signs of progress in South Sudan — including a largely holding ceasefire agreement, the reconstitution of the transitional legislature and constructive engagement in Sudan’s peace processes — her country is disappointed with the current situation. People continue to suffer in the absence of peace dividends, a vicious cycle of subnational conflict and food insecurity pervades, humanitarian workers are prevented from providing life‑saving assistance and climate change is exacerbating conflict and displacement. Against that backdrop, she called on all parties to engage in good faith, provide humanitarian workers with immediate, unfettered access to all areas of the country, speed up the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and begin drafting a new Constitution. Support from regional actors such as IGAD will be key to the 2018 Agreement’s successful implementation, as well as an irreversible transition to free and fair election, she added.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said the formation of a Transitional Government and completion of the pretransition period in South Sudan created the conditions necessary for that country to move towards political stability and national reconciliation. Welcoming the appointment of state governors and county governing bodies, the reconstitution of the transitional legislature and the drafting of a new Constitution, she stressed that only the Revitalized Peace Agreement’s rapid, full implementation will enable trust-building and avoid repeating the “mistakes of the past”. Work must also continue towards forming the unified armed forces, which has been complicated by a lack of materiel, technical assistance and financing. She commended mediation efforts by the African Union and IGAD, stressing that they must maintain unity in their approaches to act in the spirit of “African solutions to African problems”. As the situation in South Sudan normalizes, a review of the current sanctions regime must also be conducted, she added.

GERALDINE BRYNE NASON (Ireland) said the pace of progress in South Sudan must be greatly accelerated. Although the ceasefire is holding, subnational violence continues and hunger is on the rise. The Government must hold the perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence to account and ensure the swift establishment of transitional justice institutions. She added that Ireland knows from experience that women’s involvement in peace processes is critical. Her country therefore looks forward to the development of a new national action plan for women, peace and security in South Sudan to drive progress in that arena, she said.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) called for the full and effective implementation of the 2018 Peace Agreement, welcoming the reconstitution of the national legislative assembly and the launch of drafting the new Constitution as important steps forward. However, he expressed concern about the selective application of South Sudan’s transitional justice system and the unachieved goal of a 35 per cent quota for women in the Transitional Government. Warning against a resurgence of violence, he called on the authorities to create the necessary security conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and urged UNMISS to maintain a flexible posture in risk analysis. Calling for the re-designation of the protection of civilians site in Malakal, he said the Mission’s support remains fundamental to protecting men, women and children. He also underlined the important role of civil society in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, adding that the Council benefits from hearing a plurality of voices.

SHERAZ GASRI (France) called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, while urging the Council to further apply sanctions to the perpetrators of attacks against humanitarian and medical workers. Noting that the organ has identified several options for responding to the situation on the ground, she recalled that, when it renewed the UNMISS mandate in March, members demonstrated their readiness to adjust staffing levels. Then, in May, when it renewed the sanctions regime, members expressed their readiness to review the arms embargo. Moreover, the Council has set clear benchmarks for the Government of South Sudan. The reconstitution of the transitional national legislative assembly and the launch of the Constitutional process are steps forward, but many measures remain pending, including in the areas of security sector reform, the establishment of unified forces, progress in the disarmament, demobilization and integration process and better management of arms and ammunition stockpiles.

GERT AUVÄÄRT (Estonia), Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, expressed hope that efforts towards implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement “will not simply be on paper”, but will instead be operationalized. The 35 per cent quota for women’s participation in the public sector has not been met, and too many political developments have been delayed over past years, including postponing to 2023 elections that should have taken place in 2022. He called on the Government and the African Union to finalize the draft statute and memorandum of understanding regarding the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, in order to facilitate its operationalization. Expressing concern over extrajudicial executions carried out in the State of Warrap at the instruction of its Governor, he called on the Government to investigate those killings and other instances of community-based violence, which “send a backwards signal about accountability in South Sudan”.

AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) said both the people and leadership of South Sudan share the Council’s concern over the situation in the country and expressed condolences for those humanitarian workers and peacekeepers recently killed while serving the population. Assuring the Council that those attacks are being investigated, he pointed out that they occurred in areas not under Government control, due to delayed formation of state governments. While the perpetrators will be brought to justice where possible, he emphasized that the world “must understand that the Government is not everywhere in South Sudan”. His country “is not deaf to what everyone is saying”, and is similarly unsatisfied with the current situation. Expressing his hope that the next 10 years will be better than the last, he said that, for its part, the Government is committed to signing a memorandum of understanding with the African Union regarding the operationalization of the Hybrid Court. He also voiced his expressed hope that the international community will assist South Sudan with capacity-building, stressing: “Keep your money, but bring your expertise.”

  • The 8800th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.