Cessation of Hostilities Agreement Violations Persist in South Sudan, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council

SC/13176
24 January 2018
8166th Meeting (PM)

Cessation of Hostilities Agreement Violations Persist in South Sudan, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council

The Security Council met today to discuss the situation in South Sudan, with members pointing out that while progress had been made with the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement, there had already been setbacks, and the ceasefire had been broken almost immediately.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Council members that while the signing of the agreement on cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and humanitarian access was a great stride forward, it was only the first step in the process.  Violations of the agreement continued, with clashes between pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and pro-Riek Machar SPLA-IO in Koch (Unity), and between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and pro-Machar SPLA-IO forces in Mundri and other areas of Western Equatoria and elsewhere.  Attacks by unknown armed elements on Government security installations in the Gurei sector of Juba, and in Kapuri, west of Juba, on 4 January, were concerning, he noted.

The Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae, emphasized that the convening of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) revitalization forum was a success.  While the forum had focused on an end to hostilities and resulted in an agreement that reduced the level of violence in the country, the accord had been violated by several of the signatory parties.  The speed with which some parties had violated the agreement highlighted the need for compliance, he said.

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that under the recently launched 2018 response plan for South Sudan, humanitarian partners sought to assist 6 million people, more than half the country’s population.  She also highlighted that violations of international humanitarian law were still being perpetrated by various parties, including the SPLA and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO).  Despite the implementation of the Republican Order for the Free, Unimpeded and Unhindered Movement of Humanitarian Assistance Convoys, issued by the President of South Sudan in November, humanitarian access remained unpredictable.

Several delegations raised the possibility of sanctions against South Sudan, with the representative of Equatorial Guinea noting that, while such an action might play an important role as a deterrent, there were still other pragmatic issues that needed to be taken into account.

Peru’s delegate said that a permanent ceasefire would be indispensable to any credible dialogue on the governance of South Sudan, and, as such, the Council must consider sanctioning those responsible for violating the agreement.  He also noted that any impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance were unacceptable.

The United Kingdom’s delegate also highlighted the need for there to be consequences for any rupturing of the agreement.  Noting that the cessation of hostilities was violated almost immediately after the agreement was signed, he said that there should be consequences for those who obstructed the negotiation progress.  In addition, he reiterated the call for an arms embargo for all parties, noting that it would send a strong message to those who would undermine the revitalization forum.

The representative of the Netherlands said that the situation in South Sudan had reached a critical point, and the international community — including the Council — should respond with the strongest possible pressure.  “We cannot allow anyone to stand in the way of peace by undermining this process,” he cautioned.

The representatives of the United States, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Sweden, China, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Russian Federation and Kazakhstan also spoke today.

The meeting started at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:58 p.m.

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefing the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s 30-day report as well as on the situation in South Sudan, said that the deployment of the Regional Protection Force continued.  There were also ongoing discussions with the Permanent Missions of Ethiopia and Rwanda to expedite the deployment of the main body of those countries infantry battalions.  He welcomed the signing of the 21 December agreement on the cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and humanitarian access between the South Sudanese parties.

The signing of the agreement, while a great stride forward, was only the first step, he said.  The security situation remained of concern, and there continued to be numerous violations of the agreement, with clashes between pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and pro-Riek Machar SPLA-IO in Koch (Unity), and between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and pro-Machar SPLA-IO forces in Mundri and other areas of Western Equatoria, as well as in different parts of the country.  Those violations by the parties were worrisome, as they illustrated a lack of genuine commitment to honour their words.

On the security situation in Juba, the attacks by unknown armed elements on Government security installations in the Gurei sector in the city, and in Kapuri, west of Juba, on 4 January, were concerning, he said.  On 5 January, the SPLA spokesperson attributed the attacks to forces associated with Lieutenant Colonel Chan Garang, a commander reportedly close to the former chief of general staff Paul Malong, who defected from the SPLA to the pro-Machar SPLA-IO in October 2016.  The motivations behind the attack were not clear.  With respect to human rights, he remained concerned at the high level of grave abuses and violations perpetrated against civilians, mainly women and children.  Those human rights violations were compounded by impunity, with perpetrators not being held to account.

On the National Dialogue process, subnational consultations were being held in Western Bahr El Ghazal and Western Equatoria in December, he said, while they were ongoing in Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Warrap and the Administrative Area of Pobor.  The participants in those consultations had mostly been able to express their grievances and views, and the open dialogue had often exceeded the expectations of the local communities.  Unfortunately, there had also been instances when security personnel had prevented consultations from being held.  With respect to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) high-level revitalization forum, the second phase was expected to resume on 5 February in Addis Ababa.

FESTUS MOGAE, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, said that six months of hard work had culminated with the successful convening of the IGAD high-level revitalization forum where 14 parties from South Sudan and other relevant stakeholders came together to confront the challenges that faced the country after 18 months of devastating chaos.  The first part of the forum focused on the cessation of hostilities, which resulted in an agreement that had a generally positive effect in reducing the level of violence in the country.  Nevertheless, in the last few weeks, that agreement had been violated by no fewer than three of the signatory parties.  A number of those incidents and alleged violations were under investigation.

Within the past week, he had publicly demanded full support for the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) following statements from the transitional Government which had the potential to undermine public confidence in peacekeeping efforts.  The CTSAMM teams were in place to verify ceasefire compliance in South Sudan and deserved full respect and total cooperation, he said, urging the parties to fully cooperate and ensure access for monitoring and verification teams in the field.  He believed that the IGAD-led revitalization process would be the most effective platform to confront and resolve the severe security, economic and humanitarian crises that continued to overwhelm South Sudan.  All must have faith in that process and support it with the necessary resources.  The single most important contribution from the regional and international community would be to speak with one voice.

Unity between the United Nations, African Union and IGAD would be necessary to bring about positive and sustained change in South Sudan, he continued.  The speed with which some parties violated the cessation of hostilities agreement brought to the forefront the need for compliance.  There must be a clear understanding among all parties of the consequences of non-compliance.  He questioned why South Sudanese leaders would sign an agreement one day only to authorize or allow its violation the next.  “It is now time to revisit the range of practical measures that can be applied in earnest to those who refuse to take this process seriously and make clear to all concerned that the world will not tolerate any further disruption to our efforts to deliver peace,” he said.

URSULA MUELLER, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that under the recently launched 2018 response plan for South Sudan, humanitarian partners sought to assist 6 million people, or more than half the country’s population, even after more than 2 million South Sudanese had fled as refugees.  That highly prioritized plan would require $1.7 billion.  Leveraging new funding in the coming weeks would be critical.  Currently, an estimated 5.1 million people were in a situation of severe food insecurity, and 1.5 million lived just one step away from famine.  Around 20,000 were already in famine conditions, she said.  The next lean season, beginning in March, would likely see food insecurity worsen and famine conditions spreading to new parts of the country.  At the same time, an estimated 1.8 million women and girls were at risk of gender-based violence in 2018, she said, prompting humanitarian partners to scale up support services to reach 400,000 more vulnerable people than in 2017.

Violations of international humanitarian law, as well as human rights violations and abuses, were still being perpetrated by both the SPLA and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), she said, with civilians being killed and forcibly displaced by clashes between those parties.  Implementation of the Republican Order for the Free, Unimpeded and Unhindered Movement of Humanitarian Assistance Convoys, issued by the President of South Sudan in November, was inconsistent and humanitarian access remained highly complex and unpredictable, with truck drivers encountering checkpoints, roadblocks and demands for payment.  In 2017, humanitarian organizations relocated more than 600 aid workers due to fighting, while at least 28 aid workers were killed in the line of duty, she said, adding that such a challenging operating environment was restricting the ongoing dry season pre-positioning of supplies.  She called on the parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access, as also specified in the 21 December agreement on a cessation of hostilities.

Despite many challenges, she said, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners had reached more than 5.4 million people in South Sudan in 2017, and in 2018 humanitarian partners hoped to help even more people, including 4 million with protection services and 5.5 million with food security and livelihood support.  She called on Council members to help mobilize timely investment in the 2018 humanitarian response plan and to use their influence to ensure that the parties to the conflict in South Sudan complied with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that the United Nations had been a supporter of South Sudan from the beginning, investing more than $11 billion since that African nation’s independence.  What began with so much promise had slipped into a state of horror.  Both the United States and the Security Council had tried to help, and their support had consisted of much more than mandating a peacekeeping mission.  Instead of reaching more struggling South Sudanese, aid workers continued to be blocked in record numbers.  The Government had insisted that aid workers pay high fees to give assistance, funds that could provide shelter or feed some of the 6 million people facing life-threatening hunger.  The leaders of South Sudan were failing their people, and the Council was morally obligated to help its people.  The Council should establish an arms embargo on South Sudan, rather than hold endless meetings.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that the security situation in South Sudan remained fragile and the humanitarian situation continued to be of serious concern.  The agreement on the cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and humanitarian access was vital, and she commended all the relevant stakeholders who had worked to bring it to fruition.  However, the reported violation of that agreement, with both sides implicated, had hindered the process for ending the conflict.  The violation would end the efforts to help parties to address the root causes of conflict in South Sudan.  All involved parties must live up to the spirit and the letter of the agreement, which should be upheld if there was to be any hope of turning the tide in South Sudan.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said that all relevant actors had shown their support for the leadership of IGAD to find a way out of the conflict and bring stable peace to South Sudan.  The parties must take their commitments seriously and show the political will to implement the agreement, and in that regard, he rejected the violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement and called on the parties to stop any future conflicts or clashes and comply with the responsibilities they had undertaken.  The only sustainable solution to the conflict must be through a sincere and honest political process and inclusive political dialogue.  Some 7 million South Sudanese needed humanitarian assistance, he said, and in that regard, it was fundamental to guarantee a good operational environment for humanitarian workers.  He called on the Government to provide security for humanitarian workers and to cut all red tape for administrative procedures and expedite the deployment of the Regional Protection Force.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said his delegation supported any effort to revitalize the peace process in South Sudan, as no political solution existed in the country.  Every effort must be made to strengthen political dialogue through inclusive and transparent processes.  The IGAD high-level revitalization forum was the most viable path to sustainable peace for the country, he said, encouraging greater participation of women and children in that endeavour.  The internal dialogue hosted by IGAD should be geared towards adding to the discussions already established by the high-level forum.  A permanent ceasefire would be indispensable to any credible dialogue on the governance of the country.  The Council must consider sanctioning those responsible for violating the ceasefire agreement.  He condemned the attacks against civilians by all parties to the conflict, especially those that violated the human rights of children, refugees and ethnic minorities.  He called upon the authorities to cooperate with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) so that the Mission could carry out its mandate, and said any impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance were unacceptable.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that he welcomed IGAD as well as the agreement of a cessation of hostilities.  The revitalization forum was the best opportunity to secure a political agreement.  It must be truly inclusive to be accepted, and women, youth and broader South Sudan society must all be allowed to participate meaningfully.  The Council’s expectations were clear:  an end to hostilities, consequences for those who obstructed the forum’s progress and unimpeded humanitarian access.  The cessation of hostilities was violated almost immediately after it was signed.  There must be consequences for those who obstructed the negotiation progress, and he called on IGAD to set out defined consequences for violations.  The people of South Sudan knew the consequences of the conflict.  Two thirds of the population were in need of humanitarian assistance in that man-made disaster.  In November, nine aid workers were killed and aid was obstructed.  The Government was responsible for bureaucratic impediments, such as a $4,000 work permit fee.  He reiterated the call for an arms embargo for all parties, as it would send a strong message to those who would undermined the revitalization forum.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) expressed his delegation’s deep concern about the security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan.  “The time has come for the violence to end once and for all,” he said, condemning all peace agreement violations and calling upon all parties to immediately and unconditionally implement their obligations in good faith.  For its part, the Council must remain unified behind the high-level revitalization forum process, the legitimacy of which would depend on transparency and inclusiveness, including the participation of women and civil society.  Violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law must end, he said, welcoming steps taken so far to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.  With the high-level revitalization process having opened a space for peace, reconciliation and recovery, all parties must seize the opportunity to set South Sudan on the path to sustainable peace and to end the suffering of its people, he said.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said the IGAD-led revitalization of the South Sudanese peace agreement was the most urgent challenge.  “We cannot allow anyone to stand in the way of peace by undermining this process”, he said, calling on all actors to engage constructively in the second round of the high-level revitalization forum.  The situation in South Sudan reached a critical point and the international community, including the Council, must respond with the strongest possible pressure.  Establishing a hybrid court was essential for addressing impunity and the authorities of South Sudan and the African Union must do so as soon as possible.  On humanitarian access, he said the Netherlands called on the Government of South Sudan and all other partners to allow quick, safe and unimpeded access to all in need.  He added that his country would support any measure, including an arms embargo, that would reduce the possibility of violence, and urged all parties in South Sudan to allow UNMISS to do its work.

SHEN BO (China) highlighted that the December high-level revitalization forum was successfully held, resulting in the signing of the cessation of hostilities.  China was ready to continue to support IGAD, the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations, although the current political and security situation in South Sudan remained fragile and faced many challenges.  It was imperative to continue to support the political process in South Sudan, he said, noting with concern the multiple incidents of fighting and clashes that had taken place since the signing of the agreement.  The international community must continue to support IGAD and the African Union in their mediation efforts and the Council must send a unified message, he stressed, adding that it was necessary to increase humanitarian assistance to the country.  He hoped the Secretariat would conduct a comprehensive strategic review of UNMISS and put forward feasible recommendations on the future and size of the Mission.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that her delegation was concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan.  One third of that African nation’s population had been displaced with more than 2 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, with many others suffering from severe food insecurity.  Poland emphasized the importance of ensuring full and safe access for humanitarian actors in the country, she said, adding that like many other conflicts, women and children were suffering the most in South Sudan.  She underscored that the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lay with the Government, which must take concrete action to alleviate their suffering.  It was of critical importance that all parties implement the cessation of hostilities agreement.  There could be no other solution to the crisis than a genuine and inclusive political process.  Poland commended the efforts of UNMISS personnel, which played a critical role in protecting civilians.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that as had been seen in the report of the Secretary-General, UNMISS continued to encounter obstacles in the delivery of its mandate.  He called upon all parties to the conflict to honour their commitments.  His country wished to encourage the Mission to redouble its efforts with regard to the Regional Protection Force.  The operationalization of that force would allow UNMISS to better deliver on its mission in a secure environment.  His country was troubled by the fact that there had been clashes between Government and opposition forces; those incidents had triggered the displacement of thousands, adding to the millions of already displaced persons.  Humanitarian access was more necessary than ever.  He condemned the violence and abuse that targeted humanitarian staff.  Welcoming the initiatives of IGAD and the high-level revitalization forum, he said that the latter should set the stage for a lasting settlement to the crisis.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said that after four months of conflict the revitalization forum constituted an opportunity for the South Sudanese parties to rise above their differences and set themselves on the path to peace.  The agreement was signed in December, but unfortunately it was undermined by violations of the ceasefire.  The revitalization forum was currently at a key juncture.  It was critical for all parties to respect the agreement they had signed.  The parties must harness and benefit from the upcoming session of the forum to arrive at a consensus, particularly with respect to power sharing and combating impunity.  France counted on the unity of countries of IGAD to keep up pressure on the parties.  She was also concerned by the difficulties faced by humanitarian workers, including the fees imposed on them, as well as attacks and harassment.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed deep concern about the critical, ongoing situation in South Sudan.  To date there was no tangible improvement in the political, security or economic situation in the country.  The situation could escalate during the next dry season, he warned, noting that in such a difficult environment, UNMISS continued to devote its efforts to making its mandate more robust by protecting civilians and providing humanitarian supplies.  It was clear that the international community must redouble its support to the Government of South Sudan and figure out how to support IGAD in the current political process.  While sanctions may play an important role in terms of deterrence, there were still pragmatic issues that must be taken into account.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) expressed concern over the political and humanitarian situation in South Sudan.  Kuwait strongly supported the efforts of IGAD and looked forward to the second phase of the high-level forum, with a view towards reaching reconciliation between the South Sudanese people.  He welcomed the agreement signed on the cessation of hostilities as a decisive step, although it was particularly worrisome that only a few days after that agreement was signed, it was violated.  The disastrous humanitarian situation in South Sudan demonstrated the magnitude of the tragedy there, which was worsening every day.  The obstruction of humanitarian assistance could not be condoned.  The work of UNMISS personnel, the Regional Protection Force and all humanitarian actors, despite the many challenges on the ground, was the most noble of tasks and was deserving of support and gratitude from the international community.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that stabilization was possible if there was a lasting ceasefire and an inclusive national reconciliation process.  He welcomed the cessation of hostilities agreement, and regretted that, virtually from the beginning, accusations of violations had begun to emerge.  He urged all parties to comply with the agreement.  He said that other important negotiations existed, and it was important that they agreed with the IGAD initiative.  He was pleased at the pace of the deployment of the Regional Protection Force and hoped that it would continue to act in a way that respected the sovereignty of the country.  He called upon the Government of South Sudan and the representatives of troop-contributing countries to ensure that the Force continue to be operational.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said he was gravely concerned by reported violations of the 21 December agreement, while the presidential decree of 9 November had led to no meaningful improvement in humanitarian access.  Kazakhstan called on all signatories to immediately cease hostilities, abide by their commitments and show genuine political will ahead of the second phase of the high-level revitalization forum, which was a unique opportunity not to be lost.  To be more effective, political negotiations should be accompanied by intercommunal reconciliation and confidence-building efforts, international support to address the causes of conflict, and the full engagement of women and youth.  He expressed appreciation for the Mission’s work and noted progress in the deployment of the Regional Protection Force.

For information media. Not an official record.