Despite consensus by key signatories on a road map to complete South Sudan’s democratic transition to elections and a new Government, the country’s humanitarian situation is more dire than ever, with increasing violence and sexual assaults, the Government struggling to fulfil terms of the peace accord, and the entire country facing devastating food insecurity, briefers told the Security Council today.
Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said that, although the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan remains valid, the end of the transitional period was approaching. Because the parties would not be able to conclude implementation of key provisions by February 2023, a road map was agreed upon, envisaging elections in December 2024. While the road map is a welcome development, extension of the transitional period has been met with mixed emotions from many South Sudanese who had hoped that they would be voting by now.
Observing that incidents of conflict-related violence are increasing, along with cycles of cattle raiding, abductions and revenge killing, he stressed they could effectively be addressed if all concerned parties put a stop to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of choice. Also of concern was the deteriorating food security for 8.3 million people. He urged donors to fulfil pledges to the Humanitarian Response Fund, which is only 44.6 per cent funded. South Sudan has tremendous potential, he emphasized, adding the next few months will be a litmus test for the parties in committing to the road map. Commending the recent graduation of the first batch of the Necessary Unified Forces, he also stressed that now is not the time to give up the sense of urgency to implement the peace accord.
Lilian Riziq, President of the South Sudan Women Empowerment Network, marking the four-year anniversary of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, said the power-sharing agreement has neither ended the violence nor delivered the need reforms. “The situation in South Sudan is unsustainable. The whole country is breaking down,” she warned. Pointing to the joint human rights report published by UNMISS and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) she said: “The report documented 131 cases of rape and gang rape, including girls as young as eight years old and a nine-year-old girl who was gang‑raped to death.”
The current Government has failed to carry out its mandate, including implementing the peace accord and protecting civilians, with corruption and misuse of resources, especially oil revenue, remaining prevalent, she told the Council. Extending the current Government’s term will prolong the suffering of ordinary citizens, encourage the holding of fraudulent elections, and lead to outbreak of a full-fledged war and “the total collapse of South Sudan”, she stressed. She urged stakeholders in the region and the international community to support the call for a broad-based process to ensure the inclusivity of South Sudan’s transition to peace, democracy and development.
In the ensuing debate, many speakers voiced concern regarding the situation on the ground, resurgent intercommunal violence, food insecurity, needed humanitarian support and a Government failing its people, while also hailing the graduations of the first batch of 21,000 members in the Necessary Unified Forces.
The representative of Ghana, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, welcomed progress on the formation of the Necessary Unified Forces, with the graduation of more than 20,000 members of the unified national army, police and other security forces — a key milestone strengthening the capacity to protect civilians and address intercommunal violence. However, more international donor support was needed to help increase the capacity of the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid for the growing number of internally displaced persons and higher levels of food insecurity.
The United States’ representative, welcoming UNMISS’ efforts to deescalate tensions and provide shelter and critical humanitarian assistance to those displaced by conflict, expressed disappointment that South Sudan’s leaders have extended the transition period and their own time in power. Turning to reports of Government and allied forces using “scorched earth” tactics and systematically committing conflict-related sexual violence as a method of warfare — he urged the Government to investigate all such abuses and hold the perpetrators to account.
Ireland’s delegate, while expressing regret that the peace process in South Sudan has been limited, emphasized that its road map is an important step forward. Progress on the electoral and constitutional processes will be key to a successful transition towards stability and peace, she said, urging the authorities to bring together all the people in the country, including women, in such processes.
Sounding a note of caution there, the representative of China stressed that countries should not blindly regard elections as a panacea to solve all the problems nor ignore political efforts on dialogue and reconciliation among the parties. Further, Council sanctions are not conducive to the country’s access to security equipment needed to carry out its mandate. He called on the Council to lift the arms embargo and other sanctions against South Sudan at an early date to help it improve its security capacity.
South Sudan’s delegate, welcoming the Secretary-General’s understanding on the need for a two-year extension for the transitional period, appealed to those who withdrew much-needed funding to reconsider their decision. The people of South Sudan and the region were relieved that all South Sudanese parties signed the Agreement agreed to the extension peacefully, of their own accord, he reported.
The extension, and associated road map, gives the signatories another chance to implement all the Agreement’s provisions, and the international community another chance to commit themselves politically and financially so that the next two years “are not wasted like the last three”. He also said that the President has again appealed to the holdout parties to join in the peace process, while noting that several Council members “are playing host” to such holdouts. “It’s time to ask them to go home and join the process of peace-making”.
Also speaking were the representatives of Norway, United Arab Emirates, India, Albania, Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom, Russian Federation and France.
The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 4:27 p.m.