Permanent Representative Says Council Must Be Seen to Throw Its Full Support Behind Any New Accord, Rather Than Blame, Punishment
Peace in South Sudan would only be sustainable through a fair and inclusive revitalized peace agreement that would take the root causes of the conflict into account, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today, as members of the 15-nation organ cautiously welcomed the rapprochement between the country’s President and former First Vice-President.
Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “While the outcome of regional and international efforts to deliver a political settlement is yet unclear, I must reiterate that peace will only be sustained if the revitalized agreement is inclusive, fair, addresses the root causes of the conflict and engages all stakeholders, including women and youth.”
Briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on South Sudan, she said the last two weeks had seen a flurry of activity, including meetings between President Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Riek Machar in Addis Ababa and Khartoum, amid ongoing efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to broker a lasting peace with support from the African Union and United Nations.
The Council took up the question of South Sudan — including its humanitarian aspects — the day after President Kiir and former Mr. Machar signed a framework agreement for future discussions, and before the President was expected to decree a fresh nationwide ceasefire.
Ms. Keita described regional engagement and the face-to-face meetings between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as positive developments, while cautioning that peace would not be achieved or sustained merely on the basis of a deal between the two leaders. She emphasized that the Council must give its constant support and engagement to ensure that all stakeholders understood that the international community would support a peaceful South Sudan, and that there would be consequences for those who kept fuelling the conflict.
In the ensuing debate, Council members voiced cautious optimism while reiterating their concerns over the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which, according to the report, had produced record levels of hunger and malnutrition, with 1.75 million people on the brink of catastrophe and 7 million people facing severe food insecurity by the end of July unless they got sustained assistance.
Speakers also strongly condemned the killing of a UNMISS peacekeeper from Bangladesh during an attack on a convoy delivering humanitarian aid in Central Equatoria State on 26 June, and called upon the Government of South Sudan to help identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The representative of Ethiopia, whose Prime Minister is the Chair of IGAD, said the coming days would be very critical, with President Kiir and Mr. Machar expected to meet again in Nairobi and key IGAD and African Union meetings taking place on the margins. Urging the Council to throw its weight behind those efforts, he said that whatever few gains had been made must be preserved, and that it was absolutely important for IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations to work together at the present critical juncture.
Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate condemned repeated violations of a 21 December 2017 cessation-of-hostilities agreement. He called on the belligerents to end the fighting, expressed alarm over inter-ethnic violence, and encouraged the Government to do more to ensure security. Describing the humanitarian situation as one of the worst in the world, he condemned attacks on aid workers.
South Sudan’s representative said the “light at the end of the tunnel was brighter” than it had been on 31 May, when the Security Council, adopting resolution 2418 (2018), renewed for 45 days the sanctions it had imposed in 2015 on those blocking peace in South Sudan, with the option of considering further measures — including an arms embargo — if the fighting continued or in the absence of a viable political agreement. “While the document signed [in Khartoum] is a framework for peace, we are optimistic that a final peace agreement will be concluded in the very near future,” he said, adding that President Kiir would shortly decree a ceasefire. He also emphasized that the Security Council must be seen to be throwing its full support behind the IGAD peace process, rather than dishing out blame and punishment whenever there was a setback.
Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Peru and Kazakhstan.
The meeting began at 10:34 a.m. and ended at 11:25 a.m.
BINTOU KEITA, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on the latest report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan (document S/2018/609), condemning in the strongest possible terms the killing on 27 June of a peacekeeper of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). “Let there be no doubt that this is a war crime,” she said. The United Nations would be engaging all possible stakeholders to identify those responsible for his death and it expected the authorities in South Sudan to bring them to justice. Noting that the security situation remained a serious concern, with parties to the conflict repeatedly breaching the cessation-of-hostilities agreement that they had pledged to honour, she said UNMISS had recorded gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, particularly in central and southern Unity State.
Providing an update on various security incidents since 14 June, when the report was published, she said that, according to the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, there had been 11 verified incidents of fighting between the parties since 1 June, and a dozen other potential incidents were under investigation. Continued fighting in South Sudan had directly impacted the humanitarian situation in general and food security in particular, she said. “The people of South Sudan are heavily suffering as the country rapidly approaches the peak hunger season of 2018.” Hunger and malnutrition had reached record levels, with 1.75 million people on the brink of catastrophe and 7 million people facing severe food insecurity by the end of July in the absence of sustained assistance and humanitarian access. It was predicted that more than 1 million children under the age of five would be malnourished in 2018. The most vulnerable members of society were paying a heavy and unfair price through no fault of their own, she said, adding that seven aid workers had been killed so far in 2018, in addition to the 30 killed in 2017.
Turning to the peace process led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), she said the last fortnight had seen significant activity, including a meeting in Khartoum on 25 June during which President Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Riek Machar had pledged to work for peace and had begun discussing contentious issues relating to power-sharing and security arrangements. Two days later, President Kiir, Mr. Machar and representatives of the South Sudanese Opposition Alliance, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) “Former Detainees” and other political parties had signed the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between Parties to the Conflict in South Sudan. While that declaration dealt broadly with all the contentious issues, further discussions would be needed to ensure that the agreement would be implemented through an effective mechanism, she said, recalling that the Secretary-General had welcomed the signing of the Declaration and urged all parties to demonstrate political leadership at a critical juncture of the peace process.
Describing the engagement of regional leaders and the face-to-face meetings between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as positive developments that must be supported, she emphasized that peace would not be achieved or sustained merely on the basis of a bilateral deal between the two leaders. “While the outcome of regional and international efforts to deliver a political settlement is yet unclear, I must reiterate that peace will only be sustained if the revitalized agreement is inclusive, fair, addresses the root causes of the conflict and engages all stakeholders, including women and youth.” She acknowledged the efforts of the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan to enhance the participation of women in the revitalization process and stressed the need for constant support and engagement by the Security Council so that all stakeholders would understand that a peaceful South Sudan would be supported by the international community — and that there would be consequences for those who kept fuelling the conflict.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the last two weeks had seen intensive engagement on South Sudan within the framework of the high-level revitalization process. “There is indeed a positive momentum that is building up,” he noted, citing the shuttle diplomacy by IGAD’s Council of Ministers and Special Envoy and the meeting in Addis Ababa between President Kiir and Mr. Machar, their first in two years, which had been held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in his capacity as IGAD Chair. Welcoming the second meeting between President Kiir and Mr. Machar in Khartoum, in the presence of the President of Uganda, he said Ethiopia hoped that their agreement would help to resolve outstanding issues and pave the way to finalizing the IGAD bridging proposal. “The coming days are going to be very critical,” with President Kiir and Mr. Machar expected to meet again in Nairobi and important IGAD and African Union meetings taking place on the margins, he emphasized, urging the Security Council to throw its weight behind those efforts.
With its many twists and turns, the South Sudan peace process was frustrating, with issues requiring further clarification, but “we cannot afford to lose hope for peace,” he said. Whatever few gains made must be preserved, he added, stressing that it was absolutely important for IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations to work together at the present critical juncture. The permanent ceasefire, declared in Khartoum and entering into force within 72 hours, must be honoured and implemented, and all parties must ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. Underlining the “very important” role of UNMISS, he condemned the recent attack on a Mission convoy that had claimed the life of a peacekeeper from Bangladesh and called upon the Government to investigate and hold those responsible to account. Regarding the Regional Protection Force, he said the deployment of Ethiopian troops and equipment would be completed by the end of this month.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) cautioned that the parties had previously signed agreements which they had not respected. South Sudan’s leaders must show responsibility and rise to the circumstances, he emphasized. Equatorial Guinea was appalled by recent attacks in South Sudan, including one that had led to the death of a peacekeeper from Bangladesh, and hoped that such crimes would not go unpunished. He called on the Government to continue its usual cooperation with UNMISS so as to provide the people of South Sudan with the peace and stability they richly deserved. Now more than ever, it was important that the parties to the conflict refrain from any actions that might worsen the situation, he stressed, calling for measures to support the peace agreement, including the cessation of hostilities, the protection of civilians and a return to the negotiating table.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) highlighted the rapprochement between President Kiir and Mr. Machar, saying it gave hope to people devastated by the conflict. Calling for compliance with the ceasefire and commitment to peace and security, he noted that despite recent progress, the situation in South Sudan remained one of the most critical in the world, with 7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, several million people internally displaced and refugees lacking sufficient food and basic services. He called on the parties to respect international humanitarian law and ensure an optimal operational environment for UNMISS.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said his country was monitoring “with great expectation” the rapprochement between President Kiir and Mr. Machar and expressed hope that their agreement in Khartoum would guide South Sudan to peace. Peru acknowledged the important role played by IGAD, as well as the African Union and the United Nations and various regional leaders, in facilitating dialogue and encouraged them to keep working towards an inclusive, transparent and viable peace agreement. Describing the humanitarian situation in South Sudan as severe, he called for a permanent ceasefire, the opening of humanitarian corridors, and the release of prisoners of war and political detainees. He underlined that the growing number of horrendous human rights violations, including sexual violence against women and girls, must end, with those responsible being brought to justice.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said there was a long way to go to achieve lasting peace, noting that millions of people had fled, military actions had been taken, the work of both aid workers and UNMISS personnel continued to be disrupted, and half the population faced starvation and malnutrition. He expressed hope that the new agreement would help to build trust and prevent the humanitarian and economic crisis from worsening. Kazakhstan looked forward to the cessation of hostilities and expected the parties to adhere to international law, he said, adding that it also expected the revised bridging proposal to be completed. Political talks should take place alongside reconciliation and confidence-building efforts among local populations, with the full engagement of women and young people. Kazakhstan looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report on renewal of the sanctions regime, he said, emphasizing that the Council should take the concerns of IGAD and the African Union into consideration, which itself must be united in supporting the efforts of those organizations.
ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) condemned the deadly 26 June attack against a UNMISS convoy, saying he was deeply troubled by the security situation in South Sudan, in spite of the cessation-of-hostilities agreement signed on 21 December 2017. He condemned violations of that accord, called on belligerents to end the fighting, expressed alarm over inter-ethnic violence, and encouraged the Government to redouble efforts to ensure security. Welcoming efforts by IGAD, the African Union and UNMISS to prompt the parties to negotiate a resolution of the conflict, as well as efforts by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, which had led to the meeting between the President and former First Vice-President, he pressed the parties to honour their commitments and expressed support for the deployment of IGAD forces to enforce the ceasefire. Describing the humanitarian situation as one of the worst in the world, he condemned attacks on humanitarian workers and exhorted leaders to enable humanitarian access in accordance with the 2017 agreement. A joint tribunal would help to promote human rights and combat impunity, he said, pressing the Government to honour the status-of-forces agreement and the United Nations to maintain the momentum towards peace.
AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) said that his country’s Government would cooperate with UNMISS to ensure that those responsible for killing the Mission’s peacekeeper were identified and brought to book. Noting that the Government considered “unwise and premature” last month’s Security Council resolution on South Sudan, he said he was happy to report today that the light at the end of the tunnel was brighter. In Khartoum, the warring parties had signed a declaration through which they pledged to work together to bring peace to South Sudan’s people. “While the document signed is a framework for peace, we are optimistic that a final peace agreement will be concluded in the very near future,” he said, adding that the President of South Sudan would shortly decree a ceasefire. He appealed to the Council and others concerned to give their full support to the IGAD peace process, emphasizing that the Security Council must be seen to be throwing its full support to the peace process, rather than merely eager to dole out blame and punishment whenever there was a setback. Thanking IGAD leaders and Council members for going the extra mile to give peace a chance, he said their patience and perseverance would soon be duly rewarded with an acceptable and implementable agreement.