Senior Political Official, Briefing Security Council, Urges Immediate Peace Talks, Compromise to Avert ‘Impending Abyss’ in South Sudan

SC/12965
24 August 2017
8030th Meeting (AM)

Senior Political Official, Briefing Security Council, Urges Immediate Peace Talks, Compromise to Avert ‘Impending Abyss’ in South Sudan

Noting that “little meaningful progress” had been made in implementing South Sudan’s landmark 2015 peace agreement, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official called on the warring parties today urgently to embark on peaceful negotiations and compromise to “bring the country back from the impending abyss”.

El Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefing the Security Council via video-conference from Juba, said more work was needed to implement the peace accord — known formally as the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan — which had marked its second anniversary last week.  Calling on the Council to express itself “strongly, unanimously and unreservedly” in support of that effort, he noted that the country’s political, security and humanitarian situation remained a cause for serious concern, with continuing clashes between armed militias and negative impacts on the provision of humanitarian aid to a population in dire need.

Nicholas Haysom, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, also expressed concern about the security situation and the trajectory and depth of the crisis.  Calling for a clear commitment to an inclusive and credible peace process, he described several recent international and regional support efforts — including Uganda’s initiative to reunify factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Kenya’s initiative to host opposition parties — which had achieved varying levels of success.  Also gaining some momentum was the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) effort to convene a High-Level Forum to revitalize the peace accord, in which both the Government and opposition groups were participating, he said.

Festus Mogae, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and former President of Botswana, also briefed via video link, echoing the importance of the High‑Level Revitalization Forum as well as that of IGAD’s related “One Voice Initiative”.  Recalling that the 2015 peace agreement had been signed amid high expectations, he said “from day one” its implementation had been hindered by lack of compromise, leading to a spate of violence in July 2016.  He also echoed concerns about South Sudan’s deteriorating humanitarian situation and described initial “confusion” in the deployment of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) Regional Protection Force, urging the Government to resolve such issues and allow for the Force’s prompt deployment in line with Council resolution 2304 (2016).

Several Council members then took the floor, with some expressing regret that the situation in South Sudan had not improved since the Council last addressed it in July.

Uruguay’s representative reiterated his delegation’s concern that the country’s leaders were responsible for the crisis, which continued to have a negative impact on the civilian population.  What was most important was that population’s protection, he stressed, urging all parties to cease hostilities and commit in good faith to the dialogue process.  Regarding the Regional Protection Force, he noted the slow progress in its deployment and reiterated his country’s call for all parties to abide by the measures set forth in resolution 2327 (2016) and remove all restrictions on UNMISS personnel.

Kazakhstan’s representative welcomed the arrival of the Force, adding that his delegation looked forward to the deployment of additional troops and echoing calls for the Government to alleviate all impediments to its full deployment.  Voicing concern that continuing violence was negatively impacting internally displaced persons — most of whom were women and children — he said attacks against humanitarian personnel must stop so that access to famine-affected areas was not adversely affected. 

Also addressing the Council, South Sudan’s representative reiterated that it was not, and never would be, the Government’s policy to hinder or impede access to any humanitarian organization.  What was lacking was honest, open dialogue and understanding between the Government and the humanitarian agencies.  Recalling President Salva Kiir’s unilateral ceasefire declaration, he nevertheless warned that the ceasefire was not a blank cheque for the rebels to continue their attacks and provocations against the local population.  Regarding the Regional Protection Force, he pointed out that the Government had agreed to work closely with the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD for the smooth implementation and operationalization of its mandate in South Sudan.

Also speaking were the representatives of Japan and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 11:05 a.m.

Briefings

EL GHASSIM WANE, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, speaking via videoconference from Juba, said the deployment of the Regional Protection Force was under way and the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) continued to regularly engage with the Government in order to expedite it.  While some misunderstandings had initially arisen with the latter on the accommodation of the advance party of the Force’s Rwandese contingent, they had since been cleared. 

However, he said, in a statement on the recent commemoration of the second anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Chairman Festus Mogae had declared that “little meaningful progress” had been achieved in the accord’s implementation.  In that regard, he called on the Council to express itself “strongly, unanimously and unreservedly” in support of the efforts of Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, and those of the region.

The situation of the country remained a cause for serious concern, he said, noting that the ceasefire remained elusive as military operations continued, largely in the Upper Nile state.  Clashes had resumed between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) [renamed South Sudan Defence Forces] and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition in Kaka, on the west bank of the Nile.  Such incidents directly affected the humanitarian operations, in particular the most vulnerable, which were in dire need of assistance.  Listing several recent violent incidents against the humanitarian community, he went on to note that Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix had recently visited South Sudan and met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and others, reiterating that there was no military solution to the conflict and that inclusive and credible political processes were the only way forward.

While the national dialogue had made some progress, achieving the key enablers for a credible process remained a challenge and the dialogue continued to be criticized for its lack of inclusivity, he said.  Some progress had been reported in the negotiations related to the establishment of the South Sudan Hybrid Court, with the Government and the African Union Commission recently agreeing, on the technical level, to the text of its legal instruments.  “The conflict in South Sudan is a man-made conflict for which the leaders of South Sudan bear a direct responsibility,” he stressed, concluding that those same leaders could “bring the country back from the impending abyss” through political will, peaceful negotiations and compromises.

NICHOLAS HAYSOM, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, expressed concern about the security situation and the trajectory and depth of the crisis, but said he remained hopeful that five ongoing international and regional initiatives could help.  While a first impression may be that those initiatives might undermine each other, they could instead harness the potential complementarity of the processes.  Such an outcome would require clear commitment to an inclusive and credible peace process.  The High-Level Revitalization Forum, the National Dialogue or the other initiatives should neither adopt the agenda of the other nor overload the agenda with competing efforts with their own, he said, expressing his commitment to supporting initiatives towards a sustainable peace.

Elaborating on some recent efforts, he said Uganda’s initiative to reunify factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had led to expediting the implementation of the Arusha Agreement, but given the absence of Riek Machar’s faction and the former detainees’ reluctance to reconcile with President Salva Kiir, it had fallen short of achieving its goal.  Kenya’s initiative to host opposition parties had not gained much traction, stalling apparently because the Government of South Sudan was focused on elections while the former detainees were preoccupied with the Kampala discussions.

Gaining some momentum, he said, was the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) effort to convene a High-Level Revitalization Forum, with the Government and opposition groups participating.  Raising concerns about IGAD and its cautiousness before engaging the opposition, he said being overly cautious could raise suspicions that its agenda was partisan.  Further, President Kiir continued to prioritize national dialogue and reunification, with the revitalization process playing a secondary role, he adding, noting IGAD had warned that persistent challenges may affect the timeline for holding the forum in September.  Turning to the pending African Union’s engagement strategy, he said mutual complementarity with IGAD initiatives was crucial when approaching more intensive public engagement by the Council, the African Union Peace and Security Council and forums on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

FESTUS MOGAE, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and Former President of Botswana, also speaking via videoconference from Juba, underscored the importance of IGAD’s High‑Level Revitalization Forum aimed at implementing the 2015 Peace Agreement as well as its related “One Voice Initiative”.  Also spotlighting the Council’s critical support for those processes, he said “your support shows all IGAD members that the world is watching.”  Last week, the Peace Agreement’s second anniversary had passed relatively unnoticed.  At the time of its signing, there had been high hopes that the accord would resolve a number of substantive issues and it was largely expected that the international community’s only task would be to simply guide and oversee its implementation by the Government of South Sudan.

“From day one”, however, the Agreement’s implementation had been slowed to a standstill by lack of compromise, ultimately leading to a spate of violence in July 2016, he said.  Two years on, there had still been little meaningful progress and the international community remained shocked at the rapid deterioration of South Sudan’s political and humanitarian situations.  International and regional actors were now focused on restoring the Peace Agreement’s prominence.

Outlining the situation on the ground, he said operations between the SPLA [renamed South Sudan Defence Forces] and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition in Upper Nile State had caused the humanitarian situation to deteriorate, and condemned that violence in the strongest terms.  Demanding that all such military operations end immediately, he said tens of thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes, while humanitarian actors had been forced to evacuate and suspend the provision of aid to those in need.  “This has led to untold misery for those who seek only to live peacefully and provide for their families,” he said.

Regarding the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, he said there had been some confusion, including the temporary grounding of all United Nations flights.  In that regard, he urged the Government to promptly resolve all issues with UNMISS and allow for the Force’s urgent deployment in line with Council resolution 2304 (2016).  The IGAD Council of Ministers had met in Juba in July, tasking its Special Envoy with guiding the Peace Agreement’s revitalization process and urging all actors to collaborate with him to achieve a positive outcome.

Drawing attention to the importance of the Revitalization Forum, he recalled that it had been established with three objectives:  first, implementing the ceasefire agreement; second, overseeing the full and inclusive implementation of the Peace Agreement; and third, establishing a revised and realistic timeline for elections in South Sudan.  However, those outcomes were “not predetermined”, and it was up to the parties to commit to those goals.  Expressing hope that the revitalization process would be pursued in the spirit of inclusivity and compromise, he emphasized that “we must speak with one voice” to the country’s leaders, put in place clear consequences for spoilers and secure adequate financing for the revitalization process.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) expressed regret that the situation in South Sudan had not changed since the Council last dealt with the issue in July.  He reiterated his delegation’s concern that the country’s leaders were responsible for the crisis there as well as the impact that the situation continued to have on the civilian population, particularly given the difficulties in humanitarian access and the low level of food reserves.  What was most important was the protection of the civilian population, and in that context, he urged all parties to cease hostilities and commit themselves in good faith to the dialogue process.  Regarding the Regional Protection Force, he noted the slow progress in its deployment and reiterated his country’s call for all parties to abide by the measures set forth in resolution 2327 (2016) and remove all restrictions on UNMISS personnel.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), expressing concerns about the growing number of displaced persons, continued clashes and limited humanitarian access, urged all parties to take prompt and effective action.  Achieving success in ongoing peace process initiatives to address some of those concerns depended on complementarity, inclusivity and transparency.  He urged the Government to continue to take steps towards creating an environment to advance an inclusive political process, observe a unilateral ceasefire, release political prisoners, establish a hybrid court and improve media freedom.  For their part, oppositions groups must honour the ceasefire agreement and constructively participate in the political process.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) noted that the crisis in South Sudan had grave domestic implications as well as serious impacts on neighbouring countries.  The first step to bringing about peace was the immediate cessation of hostilities between the parties.  The solution to the conflict must be achieved through an inclusive political process, and, in that regard, his delegation supported work under way by the main regional actors.  The IGAD initiative, in coordination with the United Nations and African Union, represented the best option for achieving a stable peace in South Sudan.  Regarding the Regional Protection Force, the deployment of the advanced units was an important event that should be stressed.  The Force’s presence would make it possible for UNMISS to expand its activities to more parts of the country, including rural areas.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the Force’s arrival and looked forward to the deployment of additional troops.  The Government should immediately take steps to alleviate impediments to the full deployment of the Force, which could help ensure that UNMISS personnel were able to work efficiently.  He expressed concern that continuing violence negatively impacted internally displaced persons, most of whom were women and children.  Attacks against humanitarian personnel must stop so that access to famine-affected areas was not adversely affected.  He called for efforts to ensure that the National Dialogue was truly inclusive and transparent, which would require the support of UNMISS and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.

AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) reiterated that it had not been and never would be the policy of the Government to hinder or impede access to any humanitarian organization given the critical role such organizations played in helping the South Sudanese people.  What was lacking was honest, open dialogue and understanding between the Government and the humanitarian agencies.  He recalled that the President had declared a unilateral ceasefire in the country and called on the army command to heed that call, although he stressed that the ceasefire was not a blank check for the rebels to continue their attacks and provocations on the local population while the army stood aside and watched.  He commended the Government of Ethiopia for their prompt action to hold security meetings and discourage those who had sought refuge across the border from using it as a launching pad for attacks in South Sudan.  On the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, many efforts had been undertaken by the Transitional Government of National Unity.  Regarding the Regional Protection Force, his Government had agreed to work closely with the United Nations, African Union and IGAD for the smooth implementation and operationalization of the mandate of those troops in South Sudan.

For information media. Not an official record.