Secretary General's remarks at press conference prior to departure from South Sudan
UNMISS Compound, Juba, South Sudan, 6 May 2014
SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your patience.
It is less than three years since I was here to celebrate the independence of South Sudan.
The air was full of joy and hope and excitement at that time. The birth of this new nation had widespread international support and goodwill. All wanted it to succeed.
The people of Sudan had suffered for too long and fought so hard for freedom. They deserved a better future. Peace, prosperity and human rights.
Today, these dreams lie in gathering ruins.
The conflict destroying this fragile young country is senseless. What I have seen and heard today breaks my heart and enrages my soul. People should not have to live in such conditions, fearing for their lives.
I am proud of the courage shown by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. By opening our gates around the country we have saved tens of thousands of lives.
But the country should never have been allowed to fall so far.
I urge the country’s political leaders to put aside their grievances and end the bloodshed immediately. I commend moves in the past days to initiate reconciliation.
I met today with President Salva Kiir and I will speak on the phone with the former Vice-President Riek Machar. In fact, I was scheduled to speak just a few minutes ago but the line was cut off all the time and I was not able to speak. That is why you had to wait. I feel sorry for that and thank you for your patience but I will continue to speak with him before my departure.
My message for both leaders is simple and clear: That both leaders should work together for peace.
In that regard, I am encouraged that President Salva Kiir today announced publicly, while standing at my side, that he will meet with Dr. Machar soon in Addis Ababa.
Both sides must accelerate inclusive dialogue and find a resolution quickly. Continued fighting will not lead to a solution. It will simply bring more violence and suffering.
More than a million people have been displaced. Nearly 5 million need humanitarian assistance. Unless action is taken now, up to a million people could face famine in a matter of months.
We need thirty days of tranquillity. People need to be able to go back to their land and plant their crops in peace.
The fighting must end.
Much damage has already been done. It may take long to heal.
The country’s leaders must close the wounds they have opened. They must support justice and accountability for crimes committed. And they must act to address the root causes of the conflict.
That will take courage and wisdom and statesmanship.
The United Nations and our regional partners stand ready to assist this nation’s recovery, stability and progress.
[In local Arabic] I am here as your friend. I will tell your story to the world. Thank you. [end portion in local Arabic]
Q: There has been mass protest across the country against your Special Representative here after the local population and the government suspected her of and some people within the UN of having a link/ relations with the rebel leader. What are you doing as the UN boss to build trust among the local population and probably improve the image of the world body.
SG: Thank you.
I am deeply concerned. In fact, I expressed my concern to President Salva Kiir several times about this unfounded criticism against the United Nations mission here, including the leadership. This is not true.
My Special Representative, Hilde Johnson, has the full confidence and trust not only of myself but also members of the Security Council.
And I was encouraged today that President Salva Kiir himself promised and publicly announced that he had full confidence and support of the United Nations mission and also its leadership, Hilde Johnson.
Q: The UN had earlier expressed it would impose sanctions on South Sudan because of the on-going crisis. My question is: If the two leaders do not act fast to resolve this crisis, would you consider imposing the sanctions?
SG: What is important at this time is that true leaders should sit down together without wasting any time and resolve this issue through dialogue and peaceful means. Thousands of people have been killed, much infrastructure and property has been damaged. This country is one country; one nation; young country. There is no reason why they kill and destroy themselves.
You may have recognised that there was strong disappointment, frustrations, among the international community and naturally they have been talking about pressure in the form of sanctions if they do not meet the expectations of the international community; if they fail to protect the civilian population and killing people on ethnic lines.
Now, when it comes to sanctions, that should be decided by the Security Council. At this time, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have no further comments on this. But my message is that while Member States may raise this issue of sanctions, the leaders should resolve this issue peacefully through dialogue – that is very important.
Q: Secretary of State, John Kerry, was here urging the UN Security Council to quickly approve and IGAD fighting force – African troops. Would you suggest the same thing … that the Security Council go that way? And if not, why not?
SG: I am in close consultation with the members of the Security Council about the possibility of augmenting the United Nations mission provided by IGAD nations and in fact, I had discussions with Secretary Kerry and I have also discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in his capacity as Chair of the IGAD.
We have UNMISS here and we have a reprioritization of our mandate. At the same time, it has been quite difficult because of the lack of resources – human - and also other logistics.
I will continue to discuss this matter. Basically, as the Secretary-General, if Member States of the Security Council decide, I would welcome it.
Q: UNMISS was supposed to make public the report on human rights abuses and atrocities committed in South Sudan by April. That has not happened. What went wrong?
SG: There had been serious violations of human rights. The African Union has constituted a Commission of Inquiry led by former Nigerian President Obasanjo. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and my Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, were here last week and the UN also has been investigating and documenting the cases of violations of human rights. This report will be issued soon – later this week.
Q: IDPs here at the UN compound say they are suffering; they don’t have good food and so on and they need the UN to take them to another compound or to another camp outside South Sudan. What do you say about this?
SG: I met internally displaced persons in the UNMISS camp today. It was a heart-breaking experience for me. I was so saddened – there are almost 90,000 people who are now being accommodated, supported by the UN missions in many parts of this country.
As you know, UN missions were not designed to accommodate IDPs or refugees. We are not designed that way. But was have opened our gates and whoever sought refuge, whoever wanted to seek our assistance, we have accommodated them all. We are trying out best.
Now, we are working very hard to relocate them. We are building some facilities outside the UN camps so that we will be able to relocate them to a better place so that we can provide better assistance and we are expediting this process.
Q: Please allow me one more question about one other topic.
Yesterday you talked about your role as a possible mediator in the Ukraine crisis. Could you please say a few sentences about that?
SG: The situation in Ukraine is getting worse and worse and deteriorating day by day. I am deploy concerned about this, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as most of the world’s people would be.
My message has been very simple and clear since the beginning of this crisis: That the parties must sit down together and resolve this issue.
I was encouraged when the four parties met in Geneva on April 17th and they made quite a good agreement. I hope that this agreement would be implemented but it was, unfortunately, very short-lived.
It is only natural that these four parties, first of all, must sit down together and try to review what had gone wrong; why this has not been implemented. This is their political responsibility before this situation would just develop into a stage where nobody can control – beyond control. This will have serious regional and global implications in peace, security and economy. It has become geo-political and geo-economic issues.
That is why I said that whenever necessary, I am ready to play my role.
Q: When the meeting between the two leaders was proposed last Friday by the Secretary of State, John Kerry, afterwards Riek Machar responded that he would not meet the President of South Sudan without a clear program. As the UN Secretary-General, what would you do to influence Riek Machar so that he can go to meet President Kiir?
SG: As I said, I was very much encouraged that President Salva Kiir publicly announced that he would participate soon to meet Dr. Riek Machar in Addis Ababa and in fact I have strongly encouraged him to do that.
My message would be the same to Dr. Machar. It is important and incumbent on him as leader of this country and former Vice-President that these two leaders must sit down together. And I am urging again and I am going to continue to talk to him and urge him to meet President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa as soon as possible.
The members of the IGAD countries are working very hard to facilitate this talk but it is between the two directly concerned parties who will have to resolve this issue. The international community, IGAD, the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States - all key actors - are ready to assist.
Q: In your conversation with Dr. Riek Machar, what was his response to meet President Kiir?
SG: I wanted to talk to him directly but, as I said already, his line has been cut all the time. I will continue to try to talk to him. He should understand that the current situation is not acceptable and whatever grievances there may be, the only viable option is to resolve this issue through dialogue. There is no military option. So many people have already been killed. They should feel the sense of political responsibility for the better future of this young country.
There is no time to lose.
Followed by another statement after the UNSG spoke to Riek Machar
SG: Thank you again for your patience. As soon as I stepped out I received a call from Dr. Riek Machar. And I explained my position that it is incumbent on the two leaders to sit down together and meet together and address this crisis through dialogue in a peaceful way.
He said that he has been invited by Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, in his capacity as Chair of IGAD, to come to Addis Ababa. He responded positively, that he will be in Addis Ababa for the meeting in time, but he said he will try his best because he is now in a very remote area. He said he will try to be there. It’s quite positive.
Then he said he will meet first with Prime Minister Desalegn, the Chair of the IGAD. As the Secretary-General, I expect that Prime Minister Desalegn will facilitate the discussions - dialogue between the two leaders. That’s what I can tell you at this time. Thank you.
SG: President Salva Kiir told me that he was invited to be there in Addis Ababa by May 9th, Friday. He said that he will be there in time, Dr. Machar told me.
Off-the-Cuff on 6 May 2014