“The situation here in Juba seems calm now, but it is far from normal,” said Ms. Johnson. “We are far from a political solution to the conflict.”
“Although significantly improved, we have yet to see normal relations between the government and the United Nations,” she said. We are also far from a sustainable solution for people seeking protection in the UN compounds.”
UNMISS opened its gates to more than 85,000 civilians seeking shelter at various bases as part of its duty to protect people under threat, Ms. Johnson said. But she noted that UN compounds “were never designed to accommodate such huge numbers for such a length of time”.
“With the rainy season settling in, conditions are getting worse,” she said. “The sites in Tomping and Malakal (Upper Nile State) are at imminent risk of turning into death traps. They have to be closed before we face an outbreak of deadly water borne diseases… This is why the mission has taken an important decision. We will close the Tomping protection site in May.”
The SRSG said sensitization efforts were underway so that displaced people could understand dangers involved in staying in the most risky areas. They would be relocated to UN House “where drainage and sanitary conditions are better, and security arrangements even more robust than at the Tomping UNMISS base”.
“The best option, however, is for all displaced persons to be able to go back to their homes in safety and dignity. This means that peace and security need to reign in South Sudan,” she said.
Ms. Johnson expressed concern at continued violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement by both sides and reiterated the mission’s appeal to all parties to stop fighting.
“UNMISS is not taking sides in the conflict,” she emphasized. “While we cooperate fully with the democratically elected government in accordance with our mandate, the mission has remained and will remain impartial in the current military conflict.”
Ms. Johnson said relations between UNMISS and the government had “recently gone through its most difficult patch since the start of the mission”, but the situation seemed set to improve. She cited positive remarks by government officials about the mission’s work as some indicators that this would occur.
The SRSG decried harassment and abuse of UNMISS and humanitarian staff by some security forces, saying such actions countered the agreement between the government and UNMISS, put staff lives in danger and hampered operations.
Ms. Johnson also said it was vital to clarify that recent allegations against UNMISS were false. She gave an example of the mission’s trucks that were confiscated in the Lakes State capital Rumbek.
“The high level investigation team from New York has confirmed … there was no evidence of any intention of support by individuals of UNMISS to the opposition forces,” she said. “We appreciate that the government, as a result of their own review, yesterday released the cargo, including arms and ammunition to UNMISS.”
Urging the country’s authorities to grant unhindered access to investigation sites for human rights teams, the SRSG condemned continued abuses. She called for accountability and justice for “national reconciliation to take root and succeed”.
“The people of South Sudan have suffered far too long… They deserve peace. They need peace,” she said. “I call on all leaders to put the country's interest before their own… (and) on all South Sudanese citizens to put the nation's interest before their own community. … The UN remains undeterred, unwavering and committed to the future of this sovereign nation and to its people - every step of the way.”