New York

12 May 2014

Secretary-General's Briefing to the Security Council on South Sudan

Thank you for inviting me to brief you.  I thank the Security Council for its attention to the mounting crisis in South Sudan.

I visited the country last week to sound the alarm about the violence and the risk of catastrophic famine, and to press the leaders to step back from the destructive path they are on. 

I had a long and productive meeting with President Salva Kiir last Tuesday in Juba, and spoke by telephone to former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar.  My message to both leaders was clear: they must work together to heal the wounds they have opened.

I am pleased that they responded positively to my appeal to reopen dialogue.

I welcome the ceasefire agreement signed in Addis Ababa on Friday and I commend the mediation role of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Desalegn of Ethiopia.  I call on the international community to continue to support IGAD’s efforts.

Since the crisis began five months ago, many thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, atrocities have been committed by both sides, more than a million people have been displaced, and nearly five million more need humanitarian assistance.

If the conflict continues, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year’s end.

In Juba, I visited the Tomping protection of civilians site, which hosts some 20,000 people. I was moved by their welcome and appalled at the conditions they are having to endure, which are worse than in any of the many refugee camps I have visited around the world, including those in Syria.

But let me emphasize: our peacekeeping bases are not designed to accommodate such an influx – nor should they be.  UNMISS and the various UN agencies are now working to provide safer, more hygienic accommodation for the more than 80,000 people we are sheltering around the country.

The United Nations policy of opening our gates as an emergency option to protect innocent civilians is correct, unprecedented and not without considerable risk – to United Nations staff, to our relations with communities and to those we are trying to shelter.  It is not a routine decision, nor one we took lightly, but one we were morally compelled to take.  I am proud of the actions of our United Nations peacekeepers and civilian staff.  Their quick response and courage has saved tens of thousands of lives.

But this is not a long-term solution.  This is an entirely man-made calamity and it needs the engagement of all actors to change course.

I see five priorities.

First, the fighting must end immediately.  People need to be able to go back to their land to plant and tend their crops in peace.  Hunger and malnutrition are already widespread.  If this planting window is missed, there will be a real risk of famine.  That is why we are calling for 30 days of tranquillity backed by both sides.  I am troubled by the accusations by both sides of breaches of the ceasefire already, and I urge maximum restraint by all parties.

Second, both sides must fulfil their commitment by allowing humanitarian access– by air, by road and, in particular, by barge along the Nile.  Peacekeepers and aid workers are operating under increasingly difficult circumstances.  Attacks on the United Nations and the humanitarian community are unacceptable. They must cease immediately, and all parties should respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

Third, the international community must support humanitarian action.  The United Nations is launching a massive operation to help 3.2 million people, but we need resources.  The humanitarian community is $781 million short of the $1.27 billion that we estimate is needed by the middle of this year.  I urge all countries to support the forthcoming May 20 donor conference on South Sudan being hosted by Norway and the United Nations.

Fourth, there must be justice and accountability.  The human rights report issued by UNMISS last Thursday underscores the level of atrocities committed by all sides.  There are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed.   A special or hybrid tribunal with international involvement should be considered.

Fifth, the two leaders must recommit to inclusive nation-building that involves all political leaders and civil society.  That means addressing the root causes of the conflict.  They must cease a senseless power struggle and restore the sense of national unity that prevailed at the time of independence.

Mr. President,

I commend the leadership of Prime Minister Desalegn of Ethiopia as Chairman of IGAD, and also the efforts of United States Secretary of State John Kerry.  Political dialogue is the only answer.  Now the onus is on both South Sudanese leaders to accelerate the momentum for peace.

Thank you.