Ceasefire in South Sudan ‘a Distant Prospect’, Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council, Citing Disagreements among Warring Parties

SC/13327
8 May 2018
8249th Meeting (PM)

Ceasefire in South Sudan ‘a Distant Prospect’, Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council, Citing Disagreements among Warring Parties

Country’s Representative Calls Sanctions Proposal by Panel of Experts ‘Biased’, Saying It Lays Ground for International Sanctions

The cessation of hostilities in South Sudan, agreed in 2017, showed no sign of implementation, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today, saying a ceasefire was “a distant prospect” amid disagreements over its modalities and wider transitional security arrangements.

In his briefing — one of four delivered this afternoon — Jean‑Pierre Lacroix said the parties continued to argue over ministerial quotas in any revised transitional governing arrangement.  While President Salva Kiir had pledged to take part in the High‑level Revitalization Forum to resolve the conflict, rhetoric was increasing around extending the Transitional Government of National Unity mandate, as well as preparations for elections, should the Forum not yield an “acceptable” solution.

However, the holding of elections was unrealistic as the Government and Opposition were bent on armed confrontation, he said.  “Without consequences, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”  The Security Council must use its voice to dispel an unhealthy narrative of regime change that some sought to use against the United Nations in a bid to win popular support.

Ismail Wais, Special Envoy for South Sudan of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), said that since April, the Authority had engaged stakeholders and held a “fruitful” discussion with the President.  Speaking via videoconference from Addis Ababa, he urged the Council to continue to support IGAD’s work and that of the African Union, whenever they took measures against violators of the peace process.

Jackline Nasiwa, of the Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, said any hope for unity in South Sudan had been shattered by political infighting.  Women had suffered sexual abuse, while children were recruited to fight in a senseless war.  She pressed the Council to provide women leaders and civil society groups with funding and the capacity to build a gender‑inclusive political process.  “The people are tired,” she said. “Peace now.”

In that context, Council President Joanna Wronecka (Poland), speaking in her capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan, drew attention to the 2015 recommendation by the Panel of Experts that the Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.

Responding to that proposal, South Sudan’s delegate described the report as biased against his country’s Government, saying it relied on interviews with Opposition members in Nairobi and Kampala.  Senior Government officials were described repeatedly as hardliners and painted as obstacles to peace in order to lay the ground for international sanctions.  While South Sudan was committed to cooperation with the Panel, it called for one that would report credible and balanced findings.

Also speaking today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Bolivia and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:09 p.m.

Briefings

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the peace process in South Sudan was at a critical juncture.  Heading into the next round of the High‑level Revitalization Forum, the parties remained far apart on the issues of governance and security, arguing over the ministerial quotas in any revised transitional governing arrangement.  Agreement on the modalities of a permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements, including for Juba, and security sector reform remained elusive.  While the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had worked to narrow the gap ahead of the talks, divergence in the parties’ positions was reinforced by both Government and Opposition officials.

He said President Salva Kiir and his Government had repeatedly pledged to participate in the Forum, but rhetoric was increasing around the unilateral extension of the Transitional Government of National Unity mandate, and preparations for subsequent elections should the Forum not yield an “acceptable” solution.  Two weeks ago, the Transitional National Legislative Assembly had been presented with a draft constitutional amendment bill — which would incorporate the 2015 peace accord into the Transitional Constitution — at the time when the very Agreement was under review at the Forum.

Last week, he continued, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had held an extraordinary meeting of its National Liberation Council with the goal of advancing peace through reunification of that group and the holding of elections.  However, a unified, coordinated approach by all regional and international partners in support of an inclusive political initiative was critical at that juncture in the peace process.

Describing his meeting with Ambassador Francis Deng, a member of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, he said grassroots consultations had been completed and the next steps included the launch of a constitutional review process to incorporate outcomes of the consultations and set the framework for elections, with June 2018 having been cited as the timeline for completing that process.  However, the South Sudan Council of Churches estimated that the national dialogue had not been an inclusive process, as many South Sudanese constituents residing in largely Opposition‑controlled territories had been excluded.

He said that holding elections in the current political, security and humanitarian environment was unrealistic and would be counter—productive.  Despite the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement in December 2017, the Government and Opposition were bent on armed confrontation, controlling territory and forcing the displacement of civilians.  Between the Forum talks in February and today, military operations between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA‑in‑Opposition had instead escalated, he pointed out.  “The cessation of hostilities shows no sign of meaningful implementation and a ceasefire remains a distant prospect.”

More broadly, he continued, hostilities between SPLA and SPLA‑in‑Opposition forces in Unity State had escalated, displacing people and securing Opposition‑controlled areas and supply routes between Bentiu and Leer.  On 26 April, hostilities near Leer had found the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) temporary operating base subjected to overhead fire.  Humanitarian partners had been forced to evacuate, he said, recalling that the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative, travelling to Leer last week, had seen deserted villages, burned tukuls and ransacked health facilities.  The Mission had dispatched a rapid investigation team to verify reports of civilian targeting by military forces allied to SPLA during those operations.  Insecurity had also increased in Jonglei, with SPLA having successfully resupplied its position in Waat, and there had been clashes around Opposition‑controlled Akobo.

Emphasizing that sexual violence was a prominent feature of the conflict, he said the latest reports of rape and gang rape in Leer only compounded what was known to be a desperate situation for women and girls, who continued to be victims of appalling violence.  “We must respond, and respond quickly, to ensure accountability,” he stressed, noting also that nearly 4.3 million people had been displaced to date, including 1.7 million internally and nearly 2.5 million across borders.  UNMISS meanwhile continued to expand its civilian‑protection activities, but success was relative in a complex environment of active fighting.

However, there must be a tangible cost for the continued violence in South Sudan, including for violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement and for broken promises to protect civilians, he said.  As a first step, the Council must urge IGAD to make public reports by the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism.  “Without consequences, we have no one to blame but ourselves,” he said, underlining that the Council must use its voice to dispel an unhealthy narrative of regime change that some of South Sudan’s leaders would like to use against the United Nations in a bid to win popular support.

ISMAIL WAIS, Special Envoy for South Sudan of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), spoke via videoconference from Addis Ababa, first briefing Council members on efforts by the IGAD Council of Ministers to revitalize the peace process.  Noting that revitalization was being carried out in phases, he said there remained outstanding governance and security issues between the parties.  Since April, IGAD had been engaging with stakeholders, and a fruitful discussion with the President of South Sudan had also taken place.  Going forward, the Council of Ministers would step up its engagement to bridge outstanding gaps and invite the parties to further discussions in order to identify areas of compromise.  Another challenge that could undermine the credibility of the peace process was the persistent violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, he continued, emphasizing that violators and spoilers must be held to account in order to deter impunity.  It would be difficult to create trust so long as violations continued, he said, adding that the credibility of the revitalization process would also be at risk.  Commending the Security Council’s support for IGAD and the region, he said it was critical that it continue to support IGAD and the African Union whenever measures were taken against violators of the peace process.

JACKLINE NASIWA, Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice, said she was speaking on behalf of suffering South Sudanese.  She noted that the hope for unity occasioned by the 2011 referendum had been shattered by fighting among political leaders from 2013 to date.  Women had suffered gross human rights violations, especially sexual abuse and rape, she said.  The country’s leaders had failed to deliver a political settlement, and children, meanwhile, had been recruited to fight a senseless war.  Communities were unsafe amid increasing rebellions by militias and inter‑ethnic communal fighting.  People were worried about the future beyond the transitional period.

Urging the Government and all parties to commit to the Revitalization Forum process for a peaceful transition as well as fair, free elections, she applauded efforts by IGAD, the Security Council, UNMISS and faith‑based leaders to secure peace.  While revitalization of the peace agreement was a must, continued violation of its provisions undermined any stabilizing efforts.  The Revitalization Forum, which must be inclusive, was an opportunity for parties and other estranged groups to make compromises.  She recommended the creation of an enforcement mechanism to monitor and verify declared ceasefires, emphasizing that IGAD, the African Union and the Council must speed transitional justice institutions.  Chapter 5 of the peace agreement, on transitional justice, must be preserved.

Stressing the need for a gender‑sensitive approach to the monitoring of ceasefire violations, she said it was also necessary to reform security and justice institutions.  Competing geopolitical and other interests within IGAD had eroded peace prospects, she said, pressing the Council to ensure greater resources towards an inclusive IGAD process, supported by the African Union.  It should also provide support to women leaders and civil society groups through funding and capacity‑building for a gender‑inclusive political process, she said, stressing that women were often attacked at water collection and food gathering points, while children were often tortured and killed.

UNMISS, meanwhile, should work with women and others to develop early warning systems and a gender‑sensitive approach to civilian protection.  Noting that Juba had been relatively calm, thanks to the Regional Protection Force there, she said with UNMISS stationed in Yei, civilians had begun to return and shops had reopened.  Disturbed by allegations of sexual abuse allegations by UNMISS peacekeepers, however, she welcomed the Secretary‑General’s strong zero‑tolerance policy and urged the Mission to speed up investigations of its peacekeepers.  She also called for a United Nations policy of mainstreaming relevant training for peacekeepers.  “Civil society is not an enemy,” she said, noting that advocates were often arrested, threatened and killed due to their work.  Delivering her main message to the Council, she said:  “The people are tired.  Peace now.”

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), Council President for May, spoke in her capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan.  Describing developments since 8 December 2017, she focused on the final report of the Panel of Experts, submitted to the Committee on 14 March, recalling the Panel had presented its findings on the political and security situation in South Sudan, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law; obstruction of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions; arms procurement and the implementation of sanctions against South Sudan.

On the basis of those findings, the Panel had reiterated a recommendation from its first report, in August 2015, that the Security Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.  While emphasizing that impunity continued to prevail, the Panel renewed its recommendation that the Committee consider designating additional individuals and entities for sanctions.  It noted that there had been no sanctions listings since the designation of six individuals on 1 July 2015.  She said the Committee had agreed to send letters to IGAD members, reiterating the obligation of States to enforce the asset freeze established under resolution 2206 (2015), and to request the freezing of bank accounts and assets of designated individuals Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok and Gabriel Jok Riak.

She recalled that on 11 April, the Committee had heard a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict.  During that meeting, she said, she had stated her intention to conduct her first visit to South Sudan, in her capacity as Committee Chair, in mid‑June 2018.  She said she would visit South Sudan as well as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, to gain a first‑hand account of the implementation of sanctions in place.  On 31 May, the Committee would hold its first open briefing with regional States and all interested States to hear views concerning the Panel’s final report and the implementation of sanctions concerning South Sudan.

Statements

ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) deplored the lack of genuine commitment among the parties to the conflict despite the efforts of IGAD and the international community.  The people of South Sudan had suffered too much and it was time for those parties to give the peace process a real chance by demonstrating political will and committing themselves to finding a solution.  Expressing concern about high levels of violence in Unity, Jonglei and Equatoria States, he called on the warring parties to cease hostilities.  Describing the humanitarian situation as the worst in the world, he called for speeding up the implementation of a hybrid court to address human rights violations.  He went on to welcome the liberation, on 17 April, of some 200 children by armed groups, adding that sanctions must be strictly respected.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) highlighted President Kiir’s recent call for the leader of the opposition to return to Juba, saying that such a development would help reduce tensions.  IGAD’s efforts through the high‑level forum for the revitalization of the peace process, while welcome, would be fruitless if the parties failed to take their commitments seriously.  Describing South Sudan as one of the world’s most dangerous places for humanitarian workers, with more than 100 killed since 2013, he called on the Government and the opposition to guarantee unhindered and safe humanitarian access.  For its part, the Security Council should consider using all available tools against those who failed to comply with the IGAD process.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said her country was extremely concerned and alarmed by the situation in South Sudan.  In addition to seeking peace, the Government and other parties had an obligation to save lives and facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access.  The Government must also cooperate with UNMISS in accordance with the status-of-forces agreement.  Welcoming the recent release of children by armed groups, as well as the liberation of seven humanitarian workers by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in‑Opposition (SPLA‑IO), she emphasized that there must be an immediate halt to human rights violations, including the use of children in armed conflict.  For its part, the international community must continue its support for IGAD and African Union mediation efforts.

AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) said the report by the Panel of Experts was openly tilted against his country’s Government.  While the Panel had visited Juba, it had mainly cited information from interviews conducted with members of the Opposition in Nairobi and Kampala.  Senior Government officials were mentioned repeatedly as hardliners in order to paint the Government as an obstacle to peace, he said, adding that one could only deduce that the purpose was to lay the grounds for the justification of international sanctions.  Further, the Panel reported — on page 29, paragraph 82 — that opposition forces had limited access to external arms and ammunition, and were increasingly limited to small‑scale guerrilla tactics.

On the other hand, the Panel reported that the Government continued to receive arms through the region, leading its authors to recommend an embargo, he continued.  China’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in an email cited on page 27, advised the Panel to carry out its activities in accordance with the mandate of the relevant resolutions, and in an objective and just manner, he noted.  Associating his delegation with that position, he stressed that the Panel had gone after family members of those already under sanctions on the basis of information provided by the opposition.  While South Sudan was committed to cooperation with the Panel of Experts, its report was one‑sided, he said, calling for a Panel constituted to report credible and balanced findings.  The Council should focus on other means to end the war and bring about lasting peace in South Sudan.

For information media. Not an official record.