|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7235th Meeting (AM)
Warring Parties in South Sudan Must Embark on Path of Reconciliation or Risk
Humanitarian Catastrophe, Senior Official Warns Security Council
Reiterating Government’s Commitment to Peace Process,
Permanent Representative Urges Armed Groups to Show ‘Seriousness and Faithfulness’
After three years of independence, South Sudan was on the “brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and a protracted internal conflict”, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official warned the Security Council this morning.
“This is a man-made crisis, and those responsible for it have been slow in resolving it,” said Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, as he briefed the 15-member body on the Secretary-General’s 25 July report on South Sudan (document S/2014/537) and recent developments in the strife-torn African country following the report’s publication.
With both sides — the South Sudanese Government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Opposition — believing they could achieve their aims through military means, the situation on the ground remained precarious, and the conflict risked spreading to other parts of the country, he stressed. The Security Council’s visit next week to South Sudan was particularly timely, and should serve to caution both sides about the negative consequences of impeding the peace process.
“The parties must reach an agreement, without a further delay, on how to end the conflict and embark on the path of reconciliation,” he emphasized. Those responsible for serious human rights violations must be held accountable and both sides must ensure unhindered, safe access by road, air and river for United Nations and humanitarian personnel.
He noted that talks had just resumed on 4 August between the South Sudanese Government and the SPLM/A in Opposition, and were being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in an effort to sort out issues of security and humanitarian access; political transition and the creation of a Government of National Unity; justice, reconciliation and healing; and the parameters of a new Constitution, he said. IGAD member States would also need to decide on the terms of applying sanctions against those who undermined the peace process, should the need arise.
Giving an overview of recent developments, he said that the ceasefire agreements, signed by the parties on 23 January, 9 May and 10 June, had been violated. The first major incident occurred on 20 July when SPLM/A in Opposition forces attacked Government positions in Nassir, Upper Nile State. Fighting for Nassir ensued until 26 July, when the SPLM/A in Opposition retreated.
Skirmishes had also occurred in Rensk, also in Upper Nile State, and in Ayod, Jonglei State, he said. On 16 July, in Aweil, Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) received reports of clashes between Government security positions and approximately 200 Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) deserters that had abandoned their posts over lack of salary payments. On 2 August, clashes erupted between the Maban Defence Force, a local militia, and some 20 SPLA deserters of Nuer ethnicity.
Since the fighting began, United Nations personnel and aid workers had moved to the compounds of United Nations agencies and intergovernmental organizations for protection, and non-essential staff were been airlifted out, he said. Thousands of civilians had sought refuge in a refugee camp near the airstrip. A Quick Reaction Force with four armoured personnel carriers was en route to the area and another platoon size force was being deployed by air.
In addition, the deployment of more troops authorized under resolution 2155 (2014) was well under way, he said. As of 4 August, fully 3,525 of the 5,500 surge troops had been deployed. The remaining contingents — an infantry battalion, three military utility helicopters, three additional aircraft and a tactical helicopter unit — were expected to be sent by October. The United Nations had also identified police-contributing countries for the deployment of four Formed Police Units comprising of 660 personnel.
The humanitarian operation in South Sudan was the largest within a single country, he said, with the Mission hosting more than 95,000 internally displaced persons at its site, far more than its intended capacity. Heavy rains had severely flooded large areas of the UNMISS sites in Bentiu and Malakal, exacerbating already challenging health and sanitation conditions. With the slow pace of the peace process, displacement was likely to continue.
“The status quo, therefore, is not sustainable and alternative options must be explored,” he said, stressing that UNMISS’ capacity and funding fell far short of overwhelming needs. Aid had reached some 2.4 million people, but efforts had been hampered by insecurity, obstructed access, insufficient and delayed funding, and delayed logistic, human resources and political constraints.
The Mission had begun discussions with United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners to better delineate roles and responsibilities so that it could focus on its core mandate set forth in resolution 2155 (2014), he said. Meantime, UNMISS continued to encourage internally displaced persons to relocate to newly constructed sites in order to alleviate overcrowding at the existing ones.
Joseph Moum Malok ( South Sudan) reiterated his Government’s commitment to the peace process and its determination to reach a final settlement through negotiations. President Salva Kiir Mayardit had expressed willingness to form an interim or transitional Government in order to promote constitutional reform, national peace, and reconciliation and accountability mechanisms.
“We can’t afford to prolong the current situation,” he said, calling on the rebel groups to show “seriousness and faithfulness” in the negotiations and on the international community to remind them of the importance of adhering to the previous ceasefire agreements, which the rebels had violated repeatedly.
Furthermore, the international community must be mindful of the Government’s lack of technical capability needed to swiftly undertake forensic and legal proceedings, he said, expressing regret over UNMISS’ stalled efforts to build capacity of the organized forces and other rule of law institutions.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 10:20 a.m.
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