Near Verbatim Transcript - UN Security Council visit to South Sudan Sunday 22nd October 2019 Press Conference
Near Verbatim Transcript of Media Briefing by Ambassador Kelly Craft - Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations and Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations
Juba International Airport Presidential VIP Terminal Conference Room - 20 October 2019
Opening Remarks: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, you can see from the podium, my name is Jerry Mathews Matjila. I am the President of the Security Council for October and my co- leader to the trip to South Sudan, Ambassador Kelly Craft.
I'm going to make some remarks, then Kelly will make some remarks.
The Security Council visited South Sudan today to demonstrate support for the peace process in the country and to urge parties to a Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan to resolve outstanding issues to allow the peaceful formation of the Revitalized Rransitional Government of National Unity.
Today's mission was co-led by South Africa and United States of America. The members of the Security Council were grateful to the government of South Sudan, as well to the United Nations facilities resident here and at the back of hall there are the members of the Security Council and the UN.
The meeting of the Security Council, we met civil society organizations including groups made up of women and the Security Council stressed that the peace process only remains viable with the inclusion of civil society, women and youth.
The Security Council highlighted the significant improvement in the security situation across South Sudan, particularly for the general population in the past year, due to the peace agreement and the ceasefire. We also noted the reduction of political violence which has enabled more people to return home and contribute to the return of 594,000 displaced persons, increased food production, enhanced humanitarian access and increased commerce among ordinary people.
We further discussed concern about the on-going human rights situation in South Sudan and challenges in the levels of sexual and gender-based violence in the country. We agreed with the participants on the need to promote the meaningful participation of women, in particular, in the peace process with set targets agreed by the government and all parties during the negotiation. So, I am going to give Kelly the opportunity to talk about the details of the rest and you have the floor.
Ambassador Kelly Craft: To start the visit, the members of the Security Council met with the Special Representative of the Secretary General to South Sudan and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, and the UN Country Team.
We commend the work of UNMISS and the UN Country Team and reiterate our support for UNMISS to continue to implement its mandate to protect civilians, create the conditions conducive to delivery of humanitarian assistance, monitor and investigate human rights and support the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and the peace process.
The members of the Security Council met with signatories to the revitalized peace agreement, including President Salva Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar and the leaders of other political parties and stakeholder groups.
The Security Council called on parties to the peace agreement to expedite the process of implementing transitional security arrangements, to continue consultations on the issue of the number and boundaries of states and to peacefully form the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity by November the 12th.
We were encouraged by President Kiir's recommitment to the peace agreement and that an inclusive government will be established by November 12. President Kiir also committed to full women's participation in the new government and stated that the issues of violence against women must stop.
We were disappointed by statements from Dr. Riek Machar that the ceasefire will be in jeopardy if the government is formed by November the 12th. However, statements from other political stakeholders discussed the potential for formerly warring parties to come together and form a transitional government on November the 12th.
I would like to add that our meeting with civil society today underscored, that it is the people of South Sudan that have been the most affected by this conflict, and it would be the common people of South Sudan, especially women and girls who will suffer more if the country cannot find a lasting path to peace. That is why it is so imperative that all parties make political compromises to ensure a credible, inclusive government is formed by November the 12th.
We changed our schedule today to extend our meeting with the signatories of the peace agreement to give all parties and the stakeholders the opportunity to engage with the Security Council.
Opportunity is what our visit today is about. There is an opportunity for the leaders of South Sudan to make political compromise and move forward to the next phase of the peace process in a credible, transparent and accountable manner.
There is an opportunity for the people of South Sudan to live free of political violence and secure economic future for their children. There is an opportunity to look forward to a new generation of South Sudan that does not depend on humanitarian assistance to foster human dignity. In order to realize this opportunity, political leadership must listen to the voices of South Sudan's people calling for peace. They must recommit to the permanent ceasefire in South Sudan and must start speaking the language of unity and compromise.
Beyond the November 12 deadline for forming a transitional government, compromise and unity is what South Sudan needs. The Security Council expects that, after we leave here, the parties and stakeholders we have met with will work together to fully implement the peace agreement. This is the only way to bring relief to the people of South Sudan who have suffered far too long. The Security Council commits to remain by the side of the people of South Sudan. Thank you.
Q & A
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: Okay now you raise your hand and say who you are and state your question briefly, not a long statement.
Q: UN Radio Miraya: My question goes to Kelly, after hearing from all the parties to the agreement today, Dr. Machar says very clearly that he will not take part in the expected government come November 12, what is the stand of the UN Security Council right now after hearing from all sides?
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: Okay next question
Q: VOA and Juba Monitor Newspaper: What challenges remain in meeting the deadline next month? What is the UN's concern and position if the government is formed without Riek Machar since Ambassador Kelly said she is disappointed in his words? And what is the most important part of the visit for you coming here.
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: Okay, the third one then we start to answer.
Q: Al Jazeera: What do you mean by compromise that those of government and opposition should do regarding the forming of government and also the issue of boundaries and states? Thank you.
A: Ambassador Kelly Craft: So, just to try to answer the first two. You know the reason we are here is because we have an obligation as everyone today - one of the reasons we stayed so long today for the signatories - is because all of us, the Security Council that was present, has an obligation to the people of South Sudan. Therefore, we are holding to the deadline of November the 12th, we expect both the government and the opposition to unify together to be able to put the people first.
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: Look, the Security Council is of the view that nothing is impossible. Nothing is unsurmountable. The view is that there are minimum conditions for the parties to move into November 12. There is a ceasefire holding, relative peace in South Sudan, people are going back to their villages, the region is supporting you, the whole Security Council is supporting you, international community is supporting you, so there are minimum conditions. The remaining issues of the number of states, the boundaries and other things can be discussed by an inclusive all-South Sudanese government, so that is our argument. Now, our view is that, we hope all stakeholders will be in that government by November 12. We have spoken to everybody, including some of the key figures in government.
President Salva Kiir says, I am committed 100% to implement and, if any leader needs security, we give security, or the UN can provide security, so the major question was security. The government says we are committed, any number of people, protection etc, etc is available. So, we hope that, when those major issues are addressed, then the parties can move on and resolve other issues, so we don't anticipate that the remaining problems are so, so huge to not enable South Sudan to move to November 12. We have urged, painfully so, urged all leaders to take care of their own people and address the issues of South Sudanese people, so we hope they will all be in the government of national unity. Thank you.
Q: Associated Press: Just feeding off what you said. You said, you said that the remaining problems aren't so huge but today Riek Machar said the same problems are in place now that were in 2016, the states and the security and that those are two of the really big issues that led to the failed agreement in 2016. So how are you so sure that they won't be issues again and why are you pushing and the United States pushing for November 12th to come, pushing so hard for it to come, given that there are these outstanding issues that could result in something graver?
Q: Reuters: I have two questions, one is the question of funding. You have heard the parties to the agreement are complaining that there were no funds to fund the activities of the security arrangements, so what is the stand of the Security Council towards the issue of the funding. The second question is some of my colleagues have already asked, but just like the idea that... just asking that... in case the parties fail to honor or to form the government come 12 November what will be the measures that the UN Security council will issue?
Q: BBC World Service Radio-Focus on Africa: You have heard the leaders, especially the opposition leaders, they have raised concern. In your opinion as the Security Council, do you think the concerns raised by Riek Machar, Lam Akol and others are they genuine concerns or they are just playing politics? Number two as the Security Council you are insisting on 12th November and Riek Machar put it clearly to you that why do you want to risk replicating 2016 July crisis? In other words, you are already being blamed for whatever might happen in future if you insist the parties form the government. Now the question is what are you going to do as the Security Council to make sure that the people of South Sudan are not killed again? Because there is a saying in South Sudan - when they are united, they kill us when they form the government, they kill us, and they rob us. What are you going to do to help the people of South Sudan live in total peace, not just promises, but something practical because you are the highest world body that is in charge of peace and security?
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: We did not as the Security Council impose November 12 it was a request of the role players. They should have formed government in April. They asked for six months postponement, not the Security Council, they asked for it. Now when you do that, you sign a promise to the entire 193 members of the United Nations that we will do it. What we can do is to accompany you. That's why David Shearer here, the SRSG, and all his resources and agencies, you see at this airport, you can see how huge the UN is. No other country has such a huge UN presence unlike South Sudan. No other country has such a very costly peacekeeping than South Sudan. But thing this comes from taxpayers' money. These resources come from governments and governments have got taxpayers.
So, when the Security Council chose to come here, it was not because Security Council likes travelling, no. This body is in charge of global peace and security. David Shearer regularly updates the Security Council on what is happening here. The Ambassador of South Sudan updates us about what is happening here. So, coming here is a culmination of all those reports. IGAD updates us, AUPAC updates us. Actually, even on Tuesday the Council is going to Addis Ababa, South Sudan is a topic of discussion. Its a daily, monthly discussion, so it's just not an event of visiting. We ask the leaders to appreciate the fact that, for so many years, the Security Council, the UN has been in South Sudan, helping South Sudanese. This appreciation is not endless, so we appeal to them again, all of them, to meet the Security Council half-way, to meet UN half-way, and that half-way is what they requested, November 12. So, it's not sudden, no its not sudden, they saw it coming from April, May, June, July, August it's not sudden. IGAD has been engaged, its not sudden, AU has been engaged its not sudden, so what Security Council has said its just a minimum to say, ok now that you committed this last mile, what can we do on this last mile to November 12. It's a last mile and it has to happen, it has to go. So, the ball is not in our court, we cannot resolve South Sudan's problems, absolutely not. With the leadership we met, as Kelly was saying, all of them, we spent two hours with them, two hours with them. We listened to all of them to see where we can go. Most of them said, we can go November 12. With these problems, we can go. Of course, as to say, Dr. Riek Machar needs certain assurances here and there. We don't think, with Kelly, these are unsurmountable. If you go to all the struggles, even in South Africa we had similar situation. So, we feel as the Security Council, colleagues are there...we feel that what Dr. Riek Machar is asking is not impossible to do in the next three weeks, it's possible, it can be done. But we need political leaders to say, this is the moment, this is the moment I am going to do it, we will do it. So that is an issue that I think we need to.... if anybody fails to do so, they must go to their people, they must tell South Sudanese why we are not doing it, they must account to their own people, why they were not able to do it. We are accountable to the Council, our efforts, our resources we explain to the membership of the United Nations, our efforts, our resources. They must explain to their own people, why not. About the funding, the funding is an issue, but funding is not a deal-breaker. Funds are there, they can be used. Actually, we saw a bit of trust going on. But I want to repeat, that funding is not a deal-breaker, it cannot break implementation. But I think it's something that the Council took note of, it's something that the Council will report back, its something that we will also share with the AUPSA, we share with IGAD, we share with the AU. We know that its an issue that has been raised.
A: Ambassador Kelly Craft: One thing to be added today that was very encouraging was the... everyone across the different signatories agreed that they all want accountability and transparency for the funding and that was very promising to see that we were all in agreement from the Security Council to all the signatories.
A: Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila: The nature of the Security Council is that we discuss, we do not preempt. We have taken note, we have taken their views, we are going to assess with our colleagues and say this will happen. However, our hope is that the leaders will remain engaged, Dr. Riek Machar will remain engaged, President Salva Kiir will do everything possible to clear, resolve issues so that everybody might participate. But we also hope that South Sudanese will urge their leaders to move on in the implementation of the agreement.