21 June 2017
7982nd Meeting (PM)

Peacekeeping Chief Recommends No Change in South Sudan Mandate Owing to Persistent Hostilities, Stalled Dialogue

Government Committed to Deploying Regional Protection Force, Permanent Representative Assures Security Council

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, citing a lack of real progress towards ending hostilities and resuming dialogue in South Sudan, today recommended no changes to the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as set out in resolution 2327 (2016).

Briefing the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in that country (document S/2017/505), Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the mandate — including the role of a Regional Protection Force to augment security in Juba — remained relevant and suited to purpose.

“We cannot recommend any adjustments to UNMISS’ current mandate,” he said, citing the persistence of significant military operations on the ground, the lack of dialogue between the parties and the absence of authentic inclusivity within the Government.

Should a genuine cessation of hostilities take hold, buttressed by full implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, revisiting the Mission’s mandate and the Regional Protection Force’s task would be warranted, he said.

Emphasizing that South Sudan’s people were desperate for peace, he said the situation in that country was a “man-made tragedy” resulting from deliberate decisions taken by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition and others to pursue armed conflict for political goals.

Hostilities had persisted well after a ceasefire commitment made by President Salva Kiir, he said.  Emphasizing that UNMISS had been doing its utmost to protect civilians, he added that advance parties of the Regional Protection Force had begun to arrive in-country, with an Ethiopian advance infantry company expected to commence deployment in July, followed later by Kenyan troops.

He noted with concern that a unilateral ceasefire announced by the President at the swearing-in of a National Dialogue Steering Committee had not yet materialized.  With regard to the President’s pledge to release political prisoners, he said one United Nations staff member had recently been released, but three others remained detained, including two held for two years without charge.

On regional efforts, he said a proposed High-Level Revitalization Forum to be convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers was a welcome initiative.  He went on to caution, however, that elections — envisioned in the 2015 Peace Agreement to be held in 2018 towards the end of a transitional period — would be impossible if the situation persisted.

Nicholas Haysom, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, speaking via video teleconference from Geneva, said no inclusive political process was in clear sight, with the expulsion of Riek Machar — a key signatory of the Peace Agreement — complicating efforts.  As much as South Sudan needed a national dialogue, he added, it would have to be preceded by a political process which created the necessary security and political environment.

With the situation deteriorating, South Sudan’s neighbours were exploring ways to end the conflict, he said, including an effort led by the President of Uganda to reunify the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and discussions on a possible meeting in Kenya of all opposition groups, in addition to the IGAD initiative.

“I believe the demands for a resumption of an inclusive political process are greater today than they were three months ago, but much work remains to be done for a credible political process to be established,” he said, adding that the international community should deliver a clear message that it supported an inclusive process which would include all armed groups and political parties that were influential in the ongoing fighting.  It should moreover reinforce the message that credible elections in South Sudan could only be held to conclude a transitional period underpinned by political inclusion and stability — and not amid insecurity and wide-spread displacement.

Joseph Moum Majak Ngor Malok (South Sudan), speaking following those interventions, described the official launch of his country’s national dialogue as a “positive step in the right direction”, noting that its co-chairs had begun their outreach to stakeholders both in South Sudan and outside the country.  Assuring the Council that the Government of National Unity would not interfere in the dialogue process — which should not be seen as a replacement for the Peace Agreement, but as a mechanism to resolve political problems — he expressed its commitment to respecting and abiding by its findings.  Also reiterating the Government’s commitment to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, he emphasized that it was not Juba’s policy to hinder the work of UNMISS — which was in South Sudan on the invitation of the Government — and said most of the reported violations had taken place “at lower levels”.

Recalling that President Kiir had decreed the removal of all roadblocks and the provision of unhindered access to UNMISS and other humanitarian actors, he went on to say that there had been no active or direct confrontation since the President’s ceasefire declaration.  Any challenges that remained in that regard were due to the fact that other stakeholders had yet to declare their own ceasefire.  He therefore urged the Council and the international community to call on those stakeholders to respect the ceasefire and allow humanitarian actors to pass, while also discouraging the application of a “moral equivalency approach”, which was allowing other stakeholders to “take advantage”.

Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation, he said the Government was putting in place measures including the collection of non-oil revenues, while also reducing expenditures and strengthening the banking and monetary system.  “The results of these measures cannot be seen overnight,” he stressed, calling on South Sudan’s friends and partners to step in and help avert the crisis.  With the country at a critical juncture, he hoped the Council, the United Nations and the international community would positively support Juba’s efforts, as opposed to the scepticism, negative messages and threats of sanctions voiced by some parties.

Cristina Carrión (Uruguay) said that, unless dialogue was inclusive, the legitimacy of the current process would be undermined.  International actors must make efforts to foster the creation of conditions that would permit dialogue to advance.  UNMISS should continue to have as its highest priority civilian protection and restrictions against its activities must be lifted.  Only a genuine political process would bring peace to South Sudan.

Kanat Tumysh (Kazakhstan) said that, despite some efforts made by the transitional Government, only slight progress could be seen.  Partners must fully support efforts towards achieving peace.  Commending the efforts of UNMISS, he expressed support for a three-tier approach.  Severe humanitarian and security conditions were concerns, he said, emphasizing that non-State actors must stop blocking aid deliveries.  Perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice and, wherever possible, transitional courts should be set up.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying greater commitments were needed to support efforts to advance peace.  A ceasefire was essential so a space could be made for dialogue and the people’s humanitarian needs must be met.  Pointing out that Uganda was hosting hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees, he said cooperation was vital, particularly at the regional level, to address such concerns.  All outcomes of the recent IGAD summit must be supported, including a call for a ceasefire.

The meeting began at 3:42 p.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.