South Sudan

UN envoy urges South Sudanese leaders to show “common purpose” and agree on a roadmap that leads to elections

BEN MALOR/PRIYANKA CHOWDHURY

CENTRAL EQUATORIA - With barely eight months remaining in the transitional period agreed upon by South Sudan’s political actors and parties, Nicholas Haysom, the Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the country, is urging national leaders to do everything necessary to move the country out of transition to a point where credible elections can be held.

“Now what is required is national leadership, dedicated resources for completing the transition, and a visible commitment by South Sudan’s leaders to fulfil their responsibilities under the peace agreement.”

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, who was addressing the media in Juba on Thursday, warned that the window of opportunity was closing on the Revitalized Peace Agreement, which was signed by all parties in 2018 to end repeated civil wars.

“I call on all parties to demonstrate collective common purpose—unity of purpose—by working together towards the full implementation of the agreement. I encourage the leaders to take the necessary steps for the country to exit its transitional period, through the conduct of free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections,” stated the SRSG.”

While acknowledging progress in certain areas, including the formation of the reconstituted transitional legislature, Mr. Haysom outlined four key areas that must be prioritized top help move South Sudan from war to lasting peace.

“Firstly, the legislature should resume sittings and pass the Constitution Making Process Bill, which will govern the drafting of a permanent constitution, a vital measure in tackling root causes of the protracted crisis in South Sudan, by addressing issues of governance, as well as federal power and revenue sharing,” he stated.

His second priority area touched on the long-delayed graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces. “The country must have a fully functioning, truly national security apparatus to ensure a safe and secure environment, but also as a prerequisite for citizens to vote, to express their will at the polls,” he added.

Thirdly, Mr. Haysom focused on the need to conclude work on the national constitution for South Sudan. “The parties must work with the National Constitutional Amendment Committee to review the National Elections Act of 2012.”

This, according to the Head of UNMISS, will provide the legislative framework for launching the electoral process, and the formation of the National Elections Commission.

He urged the Government and all signatories to the peace agreement to redouble efforts and “agree on a Roadmap with clear benchmarks, timelines and priority tasks,” adding that this is a joint ask from all partners, including the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority for Development, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, the UN and other members of the international community.

The successful handling of these priorities should, according to SRSG Haysom, pave the way for a formal electoral timetable, which must take into account the need for an inclusive and free political space for communities to be able to cast their votes safely and securely when the time comes.

In his view, political impasses and delays have had a ripple effect on the lives of the South Sudanese people—frustration abounds, political defections are on the rise and the scale of subnational violence is surging.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the violence in Eastern and Central Equatoria, Unity, Warrap, and Jonglei states, as well as around the Abyei Administrative Area,” he stated.

“This year, more than 80 per cent of civilian casualties have been attributed to intercommunal violence and community-based militias. This violence stokes divisions and hampers reconciliation efforts,” Mr. Haysom continued.

He also spoke strongly against increased cases of gender-based violence.

“I am deeply troubled about reports that sexual and gender-based violence have surged exponentially, on some accounts rising by as much as 500 per cent since the last time we reported. This impacts most severely on the women and girls who are the mothers, daughters, and sisters of this young nation,” he emphasized gravely.

Stressing that the primary responsibility of protecting civilians lies with the Government of South Sudan, he urged the government to bring perpetrators to justice.

For its part, UNMISS is supporting accountability and access to justice for survivors through a range of special and mobile courts—this included the first adjudication of rape trials through a General Courts Martial process in Yei, Central Equatoria.

Additionally, SRSG Haysom spoke about the mission’s ongoing efforts, within its capabilities, to provide immediate protection for civilians, to de-escalate tensions, and to make available sanctuaries of peace for communities in the hope that they may start to rebuild their lives, though the primary responsibility of protecting civilians lies with the Government.

“Our efforts help to build community confidence and to reconcile feuding parties. They are always conducted in partnership with local authorities and local communities,” said the top UN official in the country.

“Yet a stark reality faced by many people is that climate change, coupled with conflict and food insecurity, has created a humanitarian crisis of giant proportions,” continued the SRSG, as he referenced the effects of flooding which has displaced tens of thousands across the country.

“I personally have witnessed firsthand the effects of the floods on the populations in Bentiu and it is truly heartbreaking,” revealed Mr. Haysom.

He further cautioned that as needs grow globally with competing crises across the world, funds are diminishing. “International partners are financially stretched, leading to shortfalls in funding. Less than 30 percent of the $1.7 billion required for humanitarian response has been received.”

This situation has compelled humanitarian colleagues to re-prioritize the assistance they are providing to the most vulnerable.

In conclusion, SRSG Haysom reiterated the continued readiness of the UN and the international community to support the people of South Sudan.

“The gravity of the situation requires South Sudan’s leaders to galvanize their efforts towards peace, development, and prosperity. As ever, the UN stands ready and willing to support—upon the invitation of, and in partnership with, the government.”