Statement by Mr. Nicholas Haysom Special Representative of the Secretary General 18th RJMEC meeting [As delivered] – South Sudan
* uba, July 22, 2021: * It is a pleasure to be with you today at my first RJMEC plenary meeting. To begin with, I would like to congratulate South Sudan on its tenth anniversary as an independent state. Ten years ago, the international community pledged support for South Sudan. This commitment remains as important and urgent today as the world’s youngest nation strives to bring peace and security to its citizens.
As we look back with disappointment on unfulfilled aspirations, we can also look to the future with hope. The permanent ceasefire is still in effect. Political violence has diminished and the parties remain committed to the revitalized Accord. These are significant achievements.
However, we must recognize the increased vulnerability across the country. Unprecedented levels of subnational conflict, economic decline, the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change continue to have a devastating impact on food security and livelihoods.
Even today, the emerging insecurity in Tambura is of great concern. Equally disturbing is the vicious circle of localized violence in Tonj between armed youths from Paliang and Marial-Lou and its harmful effects on civilians. As the two groups clashed, a WFP warehouse was invaded. The four-month food supply for 41,000 food-insecure people has been looted or destroyed. In addition, government institutions, INGO offices, churches, schools and the humanitarian hub hall in Marial-Lou were also looted, damaged or destroyed.
In May, more than $ 1 million worth of humanitarian supplies and goods were looted and destroyed in armed attacks in Gumuruk, affecting the delivery of aid to around 130,000 people.
South Sudan is increasingly becoming one of the most dangerous places to operate for aid workers. This year alone, four aid workers have been killed in the line of duty.
These criminal acts must stop. The support of donor partners and the hard work of our humanitarian partners cannot be taken for granted. Those who commit violence and looting must be brought to justice.
UNMISS will continue to assist the Government and authorities in responding to these situations in order to protect displaced communities and provide protection to humanitarian personnel and supplies. Already, UNMISS has increased the number of patrols in affected areas, deploying temporary bases in key hot spots. This increased flexibility in the use of our peacekeeping assets is possible thanks to the re-designation of four POC sites as camps for internally displaced persons. I must also inform you that there are currently no plans to re-designate the POC site in Malakal.
When I arrived in Juba, I had the opportunity to meet the President and senior government officials. I also traveled to all ten states to hear directly from the people of South Sudan. What has emerged from these commitments is that local authorities want help in dealing with subnational conflicts and stemming the proliferation of firearms.
With this in mind, I recently shared key aspects of UNMISS’s strategic vision with the Security Council. Allow me to share some thoughts on the five avenues for implementing our mandate.
First, South Sudan is fortunate to have concluded a multi-party peace agreement to guide its transition. Making irreversible progress towards peace requires tangible gains in implementing the agreed transition benchmarks. These benchmarks include important markers for a lasting national compromise and lasting peace in the form of a new constitution, elections and the building of democratic institutions.
Second, UNMISS is committed to making optimal use of its uniformed personnel to contribute to a safe and secure environment for political progress, but which will also allow for the urgent and necessary delivery of humanitarian assistance as well as the conditions. necessary for refugees and internally displaced persons to return and earn a living.
Third, as critical as the contribution of uniformed personnel is, civil and political commitments at the local level. They allow conditions and arrangements in which neighboring communities can live together. The widespread engagement of UNMISS throughout the country has gained momentum and importance in this area.
It also underlines the importance of the fourth track – the existing institutions of the rule of law. A strong and well-developed chain of justice is integral to breaking the cycle of violence and empowering the saboteurs of peace.
And finally, UNMISS is fully aware that all these efforts cannot be accomplished by the United Nations alone. Consequently, the Mission intends to strengthen collaboration and promote greater coherence between international partners, in particular the RJMEC, IGAD, the AU and the diplomatic community in general.
Strengthened commitments with the transitional government will also be essential for the future. And in this regard, the recent establishment of a high-level coordination forum with the Government to address movement restrictions and our other operational challenges is an important step that advances the implementation of the mandate and our joint efforts. to deepen peace throughout the country.
I am also encouraged by recent progress, including: the launch of the consultative process of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH), the creation of a working group to oversee and coordinate transitional justice and reforms judicial processes, reconstitution of the national legislature, and initiation of the process of drafting the permanent constitution.
In this regard, in the mandate of UNMISS, the Security Council called for an electoral needs assessment in support of the elections at the end of the transition period. The evaluation team visited Juba and engaged with the government and a cross-section of stakeholders. They also consulted IGAD, the AU and the wider diplomatic community. Their findings have been submitted to the Security Council and are expected to be published shortly.
These developments indicate the continued commitment of the Transitional Government and international partners to focus on achieving progress against all of the benchmarks needed to move the transition period forward.
In addition, the recent indication of a willingness by non-signatories to the peace agreement to enter into the ceasefire framework during the Sant’Egidio talks is a welcome step forward. UNMISS will continue to support initiatives with non-signatory parties.
In conclusion, if we are to recognize the progress made so far, we must also be aware that much remains to be done to maintain the gains of peace and make them irreversible. The revitalized government must demonstrate the political will to advance the implementation of the agreement.
Right now, we want to see:
- A fully operational R-TNLA and Council of States.
- Comprehensive formation of subnational governance structures, including state legislatures and in the three administrative zones, while ensuring the 35% gender requirement.
- Acceleration of the permanent constitutional process.
- Progress on the harmonization of the command of the armed forces so that the formation of the necessary unified forces and other provisions of the transitional security arrangement can progress.
I am convinced that by working together we can accelerate the implementation and maximize our impact in achieving the results of R-ARCSS which, in turn, aims to anchor the social contract between South Sudanese and their government.