Delegate Voices Condolences for 2 Peacekeepers, Staff Member Killed in Juba
The Security Council must urgently consider imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan, the head of United Nations peacekeeping said today while briefing members today on the crisis evolving in that country.
“Clearly, the threat of one has done little to deter the parties,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the 15-member Council. “Likewise, additional targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders blocking the implementation of the Peace Agreement [Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan] must be enacted immediately,” he added, emphasizing: “The never-ending cycle of devastating violence … must come to an end now.”
He said he was convinced that initial Government estimates of 272 people killed, including 33 civilians, were “only the tip of the iceberg”, amid reports of civilians being barred from safer ground, including United Nations compounds. Citing estimates from humanitarian partners, he said at least 36,000 civilians had been displaced by fighting in the capital city, Juba, with some having taken shelter in two compounds run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and others in facilities operated by the World Food Programme (WFP), non-governmental organizations and churches.
At least eight people had been killed, and several others injured in and around the UNMISS compounds, he continued, noting that the fatalities included two peacekeepers and one United Nations national staff member. Urging the South Sudanese authorities to investigate the deaths, he emphasized that any deliberate attack on the Organization’s forces, personnel and premises could constitute war crimes.
“The current situation in the country remains fluid and uncertain,” he said, noting that a unilateral ceasefire declared by President Salva Kiir on 11 July — and seemingly endorsed by First Vice-President Riek Machar — appeared to be holding in Juba, with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) apparently in full control of the capital and non-commercial flights resuming at Juba airport. Outside the capital, fighting had taken place in Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states on 11 July, a day after soldiers had reportedly looted a neighbourhood outside Wau town, he said, adding that he was “very worried” about the potential for violence in other parts of South Sudan.
“While we welcome the cessation of hostilities, the Government must allow UNMISS and humanitarian actors freedom of movement and unfettered access so that we can provide vital assistance to the affected civilian population,” he stressed, pointing out that, six days into the crisis, the Mission was still unable to make a full assessment of the security, humanitarian and human rights consequences of events.
The Council was considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on South Sudan (document S/2016/552) — issued in mid-June and covering the period from 1 April to 3 June — which contains recommendations for renewing the mandate of UNMISS. The Under-Secretary-General had previously briefed members on 10 July, when the Council issued a press statement condemning the escalation of fighting in Juba, which had begun on 7 July. “As I told you three days ago, concerted action by the Security Council is required,” he reiterated.
Recalling that the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity had prompted cautious optimism in April, he said it was now unclear what further progress could be made. There could be a one-month technical roll-over of the UNMISS mandate, he suggested, saying the Mission would probably be reinforced with more troops and more robust equipment, such as attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, in order to protect civilians.
He acknowledged efforts by Ellen Margrethe Løj, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in South Sudan, and by various regional and international leaders to press President Kiir and First Vice-President Machar immediately to end hostilities and ensure the protection of civilians and United Nations personnel. He said the Organization would work with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the modalities of reinforcing the Mission with the goal of securing and demilitarizing Juba so the Government could “get to work”.
Akuei Bona Malwal (South Sudan) expressed his condolences over the loss of United Nations peacekeepers killed during the events in Juba, and reiterated the commitment of his country’s Government to implement the Peace Agreement fully. Describing recent setbacks as “a learning curve”, he recalled the Governor’s house in Raja, the capital of Lol state, had been attacked on 15 June and the town overrun by unknown gunmen before being repelled by the SPLA. On 24 June, unknown gunmen had attacked Wau, capital of Wau state.
The Government had acted quickly to protect civilians on both occasions, minimizing casualties by imposing curfews, he continued. Humanitarian access had been allowed, the new governors had called for calm and an investigative committee had been formed. However, from 7 to 10 July, Juba had experienced the most difficult challenge to the Peace Agreement thus far, he said, recalling that on 7 July, a force from the headquarters of the First Vice-President had launched an attack on a checkpoint at Gudelle run by an integrated force of SPLA and other organized forces, which had led to the deaths of two SPLA soldiers, two national security personnel and one doctor.
On 8 July, he said, the President had met with the First Vice-President and the Vice-President to discuss the security situation, when a protection force of the First Vice-President had arrived at the presidential palace in response to a false “breaking news” story posted by his press secretary. Amid the chaos, the President had facilitated the First Vice-President’s safe passage to his residence and formed an investigation committee led by the Minister for Interior that was due to report on those events within 10 days.
He went on to state that on 10 July, a force of the First Vice-President had overrun a checkpoint on the Juba–rei Road before being repulsed by SPLA forces. On 11 July, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) forces had attacked the same checkpoint and had again been repulsed. The President had ordered the immediate cessation of hostilities, he said, emphasizing: “The Transitional Government of National Unity is the only viable mechanism to fully implement the Agreement.”
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.