|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7172nd Meeting (PM)
South Sudan Leaders Must Allow Humanitarian Access, Work Together
To Heal Wounds, Secretary-General Tells Security Council
Calling on both sides to honour last week's ceasefire, the Secretary-General today told the Security Council that South Sudan was at a critical juncture and must take immediate steps to prevent an even worse humanitarian disaster.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported that he visited South Sudan last week to sound the alarm about the risk of a catastrophic famine and to press leaders to step back from the destructive path they were on. He had a productive meeting with President Salva Kiir and had spoken by telephone to former Vice-President Riek Machar. His message to both leaders was clear — they must work together to heal the wounds they had opened. The Secretary-General welcomed the ceasefire agreement brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and signed in Addis Ababa on 9 May.
Since the crisis began five months ago, thousands had been killed, atrocities committed by both side and more than a million people had been displaced; with many more now in need of humanitarian assistance. "If the conflict continues, half of South Sudan's 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year's end," he said.
Having been to one of the civilian protection sites, the Secretary-General said he was appalled at the conditions, which were worse than any of the many refugee camps he had visited around the world. He emphasized that peacekeeping bases were not designed to handle such an influx of people, with more than 80,000 people being sheltered at United Nations locations around the country. He was proud of the actions of United Nations peacekeepers and civilian staff, which had saved tens of thousands of lives. However, this was not a long-term solution.
The Secretary-General said that the fighting had to end and people must be allowed to peacefully return to their lands and tend to their crops before the critical planting window was missed. With hunger and malnutrition wide-spread, he called for 30 days of tranquillity, backed by each side. Both sides must also allow humanitarian access, while the international community must provide resources for a comprehensive humanitarian response. There must also be justice and accountability, potentially through a special or hybrid tribunal. The two leaders must also recommit to inclusive nation-building involving all political leaders and civil society.
Francis Mading Deng ( South Sudan) stressed that the reports about the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in his country were "extremely disturbing". He recalled his past statement before the Council where he described activities towards creating a national investigation committee and cooperating with the African Commission of Inquiry. Recent developments demonstrated a "more encouraging direction towards peace". After visits by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the Secretary-General, where the leaders of the warring factions had been persuaded to meet face to face, President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, in fact, did meet under the "determined and unrelenting mediation" of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemiriam Dessalegn. A framework agreement for the peace process was then signed.
That agreement, he said, not only stipulated immediate cessation of hostilities, but also committed parties to the separation of their forces and the deployment of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Monitoring and Verification Mechanism. Further, humanitarian corridors and unconditional cooperation with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies were to be open, ensuring aid reached populations affected by the conflict throughout the country. A transitional government of national unity would be established, engaging all stakeholders, including former detainees, political parties, civil society and faith-based organizations, and a permanent constitution of South Sudan would be developed through negotiations.
Credit for the positive turn of events, he said, needed to go to both leaders, and noted that the "remarkable shift" could not have been possible without international pressure.
President Kiir had ordered his troops to stop any military activities against the rebels, except in strict self-defence if attacked. The Government trusted that, in return, Mr. Machar would also honour his word. Even when the society had been shattered by violent conflict, the objective of the peace process was to balance justice and accountability with restoring unity, forgiveness and reconciliation. The challenge ahead would be in balancing those principles.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 3:20 p.m.
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