AU-UN visit to South Sudan concludes with messages of hope and commitment to peace; inclusion of women

10 Oct 2018

AU-UN visit to South Sudan concludes with messages of hope and commitment to peace; inclusion of women

Beatrice Mategwa

A joint African Union-United Nations delegation has concluded a three-day visit to South Sudan, expressing hope for “full cessation of hostilities” and a promise to “hold accountable” those who may derail the peace process.

Speaking to journalists in the capital, Juba, they said the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 12 September 2018 “is the starting point of the hard work,” and that their visit sought to hear from the Government, civil society, women’s organizations and others about what needed to be done immediately in support of the agreement.

“The implementation of the peace agreement is primarily a responsibility for South Sudanese,” said the Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. “And I think the partners of South Sudan are keen to see a few things materialize on the ground, particularly the cessation of hostilities which would be, of course, so important – a full cessation of hostilities,” he added.

African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, acknowledged there would be challenges ahead, but warned, “let us just take note today that everybody wants to implement that agreement faithfully and we will [hold] accountable anyone going the other route.”

During their visit, the delegation said they had a chance to see first-hand and talk to some of those who had suffered years of conflict.

“The population has suffered tremendously,” said the UN Peacekeeping chief, Lacroix, adding, “We are looking forward to further improvement in the security situation and other such positive signals that will certainly generate confidence and mobilization from the international community.”

Listing various expectations from the women she met, UN Women’s top official said women wanted to be included in the security sector reforms which would include greater participation and contribution by women in securing the country.

“They also wanted to encourage the Government to interact with them directly so that they, too, can have an opportunity to exchange directly with Government about their expectations and get additional assurance about the future which they are very excited about,” said the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“They also want to make sure they take advantage of the 35% participation provision and they would put it on themselves to find the best candidates to fill in those positions,” she told journalists, adding that the women “want to go back to being economically productive citizens.”

The delegation had earlier met with various government officials, reiterating their support for the revitalized peace agreement.

“[It] was good to hear from both the UN [and AU] representatives about the commitment of the UN to support the peace process and they are waiting to see us giving important signals, milestones that prove our commitment and seriousness in implementing this agreement,” said Cabinet Affairs Minister, Martin Elia Lomuro after his closed-door meeting with the delegation, adding, “We have also heard from the African Union about their desire to participate with us in the security sector reform.”

He said the government was committed to implementing what it had signed, including the 35 per cent quota for women.

“That agreement was an agreement by all of us. They didn’t have to fight for it. They should remain calm and trust those in charge – particularly the members of the national review committee who will be ensuring that the objectives of the agreement are followed,” he said, voicing the government’s reassurance on an issue that was at the centre of the delegation’s visit.