‘Untold Suffering’ of South Sudan’s People Must Stop, Special Representative Says in Briefing to Security Council

14 May 2015

‘Untold Suffering’ of South Sudan’s People Must Stop, Special Representative Says in Briefing to Security Council

To end the worsening suffering in South Sudan, the international community must find a way to help its people bring about urgently needed peace, eliminate drivers of conflict and resume development, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council this afternoon.

“The untold suffering of the people of South Sudan must stop,” Ellen Margrethe Løj said, in a meeting preceding the 26 May vote on renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which she heads.  The meeting also heard from Carlos Olguín Cigarroa of Chile, who chairs the 2206 Sanctions Committee on South Sudan, followed by the South Sudanese representative.

In addition to facilitating political settlement, Ms. Løj said it was necessary to provide enhanced support in critical areas such as health, education and food production, “not only to prevent collapse of the social fabric of the country, but also to prevent insecurity from spreading to areas not directly affected by the overall conflict”.  She pledged the Mission’s commitment to laying the foundation for long-term development in addition to facilitating peace and humanitarian assistance.

Updating the Secretary-General’s 13 April report (document S/2015/296), she said that the security, human rights and humanitarian situations continued to deteriorate, despite the cessation of hostilities agreement.  Widespread military action continued, along with widespread murder, rape and destruction, with the most serious situation currently in Unity State.  There, most humanitarian agencies and their partners have had to evacuate their staff, further increasing the suffering.

Some 2,400 people have fled so far in May to the UNMISS camp in Bentiu, she said.  In addition, fighting and tribal tensions in Upper Nile and Jonglei States were driving people to UNMISS protection of civilian sites, and intercommunity tensions inside the camps had increased, leading to fatal fighting, though UNMISS constantly promoted reconciliation.  UNMISS was also exploring ways to foster reconciliation to end intercommunal violence in Lakes State and other areas involving cattle-raiding and revenge attacks that often targeted women and children.

Over 1.5 million people remained displaced in the country, she said, with more than 500,000 having fled to neighbouring countries.  Over 2.5 million faced severe food insecurity.  UNMISS had provided force protection to relief convoys aimed at the prepositioning of humanitarian and relief supplies ahead of the onset of the rainy season.

As of 6 May, UNMISS was providing protection to nearly 120,000 displaced persons in seven sites, with some receiving substantial investment to improve conditions ahead of the rains.  She highlighted, however, the unsustainability of the sites in the longer term.  The longer the camps existed, the greater the tensions within them, and crime, gang-related violence and ethnically based disturbances had increased.

UNMISS had also conducted investigations into gross human rights violations around the country and was monitoring the “aggressive posture” of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) towards displaced persons in the camp at Bentiu, where several people had been killed and injured.

She said it was critical that all humanitarian actors do their utmost to provide services all over the country, and not only at the protection sites so that they did not draw people who did not need physical protection.  The arrival of additional troops had allowed UNMISS to expand its reach, though the scope of protection services was limited by resources, particularly in hard-to-reach areas.

On a more positive note, she said that, to date, 1,757 children linked to the Cobra Faction had been demobilized and the leader of that group had assured her of his support to secure the release of the remaining child soldiers in his area.  Efforts to reintegrate the children so that they did not relapse back into armed groups, needed donor support.

UNMISS continued to provide assistance to the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).  While the Mission had no mandate to facilitate the peace process, it was of course affected by a lack of progress in reaching a comprehensive agreement.

Pointing to restrictions and obstructions and continued incidences of unlawful arrests, detention and abduction, she urged the Government and the opposition to renew their commitment to facilitating the work of the United Nations in South Sudan.  Three national staff of the World Food Programme (WFP) had gone missing on 1 April in Upper Nile State, in addition to those listed in her October report as missing.

Mr. Olguín Cigarroa recounted the main activities of the Sanctions Committee, including the distribution to delegations of a set of draft guidelines, a draft note verbale and a draft press statement for their comments.  The Council had called on all Member States to report to the Committee on the measures they had adopted to effectively implement the travel ban and the assets freeze.

The Committee, he said, was also facilitating the appointment of its experts and was expected to travel to the region at the end of May to gather and analyse information relevant to its mandate and to meet with representatives of Governments of the region.  It had received a briefing by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Mine Action Service and the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Children in Armed Conflict, respectively.

The chair reminded Member States that they were expected to submit reports, by 3 June at the latest, on the assets freeze and the travel ban.  Continuing, he said that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union had noted the adoption of resolution 2206 (2015), as well as the effective implementation of sanctions.  He affirmed the willingness of the Security Council to impose “selective sanctions” in order to achieve a sustainable peace in South Sudan.

Taking the floor following the briefings, the representative of South Sudan, Francis Mading Deng, said that there could be no doubt about the common interest in restoring peace, security and stability in his country, despite the fact that a sanctions regime on his State was about to be operationalized.  If sanctions and other punitive measures were sure to facilitate and accelerate the achievement of peace, there would be no controversy over them.  However, he said:  “Our position has been that, rather than promoting peace, [sanctions] are likely to harden positions and generate confrontation.”

In addition, the efforts of the Government, in particular President Salva Kiir, for the cause of peace, were not being adequately recognized and rewarded.  It was remarkable that a democratically elected leader confronted with a rebellion aimed at overthrowing him had moved so quickly to engage his adversaries in dialogue for peace.

He realized that the United Nations had to remain impartial.  “But, rights and wrongs, although never one-sided, are also never equal,” he said.  Moral equivalency could equate the wrongdoer with the wronged and that could not be a basis for a truly just solution.

Restoring peace, in any case, must be the top priority for the parties and the international partners, and his country was appreciative of IGAD mediation efforts, he said.  Unfortunately, history was about to repeat itself.  The IGAD initiative during the Sudan civil war in the early 1990s had begun to stall as regional partners began to differ among themselves.  The process was then reinforced and reinvigorated by the Friends of IGAD, which evolved into an IGAD Partners Forum.

Today, he said, it was widely acknowledged that the IGAD mediation process was being challenged and showing signs of exhaustion.  It needed to be reinforced and reinvigorated.  The fact that the principle of IGAD+5 was being considered was encouraging, but it needed to be acted upon and even more needed to be done.

He was encouraged by the higher priority now accorded to capacity-building support by UNMISS, which needed to be viewed not as a means of empowering the Government to be repressive, but as a way of developing more responsible and responsive institutions of good governance, capable of protecting the civilian population.

Finally, he said, despite the imposition of sanctions, his delegation advocated for constructive engagement between the international community and the parties, in particular the Government.  “A great deal can be done through positive collaboration, while confrontation carries risks that can be counterproductive,” he said.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.