Security Council Arrival; Near verbatim press briefing transcript
U.S Ambassador Samantha Power speech
Thank you so much, thank you all of you for coming here today to be part of such a gracious welcome. It is a great honor for me as the USA permanent representative to the United Nations to join my Senegalese colleague in co-leading this trip to South Sudan and to visit South Sudan alongside the full 15members of the UN Security Council. Who are completely united in our desire to see peace in South Sudan and to see the people of this country live with the security and dignity that they have craved for very long time. For me personally it is great to back in South Sudan I was here roughly two years. We are here unfortunately not in a celebratory frame of mind but because of our deep concern about the fighting that have degraded the security environment and that has exacerbated a devastating humanitarian crisis for the people of this country.
The international community is extremely frustrated with the obstruction of UN peacekeeping operation that has gone on for too long. It has been extremely difficult for the UN to do its work here whether that the work of been out and about and patrolling on the street in the hope of protecting civilians who might vulnerable or just the work of having you humanitarian access so you can feed people who are in certain parts of the country at great risk of famine. More of than 40% of the population face life threatening hunger that is enough to get the whole world’s attention it is a siren.
We have seen of course since December 2013 a very large number of people displaced within South Sudan but also 900,000 refugees who have fled the country alongside the 1.6million IDPs so with the poverty and the extreme hunger the international community has try to stepped up we have tried to make very substantial contributions in-terms of food but we have to do this in partnership in order for people who need this food to be reached again in a very difficult security conditions.
We have been all alarmed by the killing of civilians that has occurred in a surge in reports of sexual assault been carried out against South Sudanese in very large numbers and also of course International personal. Some of those reports as you know have been filed on the basis of the claims made about attacks that occurred right outside some of the UN protection of civilians sites and given how deeply committed we are to supporting the UN and its efforts to keep people safe at those sites and around those sites and to perform UNMISS mandate of civilians protection we have a lot of questions about how those attacked can have occurred and why there has been no visible accountability for the perpetrators of those attacks.
The peace agreement of course is the frame work that the Security Council and Regional Actors who I will speak to momentarily we are all here in support of the of that peace agreement. It is extremely important that enabling environment be created here by all stakeholders to allow for the implementation of that agreement. We have also come to make clear way the best way of averting further destabilization and giving that peace agreement a chance to take hold and giving the civilians a chance to receive the food that they vitally need but more importantly to get back to planting and taking care of their own destinies. One of the most important ways to do that is to allow the regional protection force that just has been authorize to be deployed. This was the force with a set of task specified in resolution 2304 providing for free and safe movement in Juba, supporting the protection of vital infrastructure and preventing threatens against civilians.
UNMISS of course has long had a mandate to protect civilians and to use all necessary means to do so. But we have seen that UNMISS has dedicated huge resources to these protection sites that have grown up at UN bases and that was never envisaged when UNMISS was mandated with civilians protection. It was never understood that you would have 200,000 South Sudanese at those bases and that requires a huge amount of resource in order just to do what they call static protection.
So this regional protection force can be very important in enhancing the sense of security and building confidence and allowing UNMISS to have capacity to go out and about and go beyond the protection of civilians’ sites.
We are very eager to hear from the government about what its intention are as it relates to the force we are pleased that they have accept the force in principle and we know that the details are been worked through .
But we are also here to underscore the time of the essence and resolution 2304 makes that very clear there really is no time to delay given the acute humanitarian needs of the population and the insecurity that has plagued too many parts of the country.
The Council has received continuing disturbing reports about impediments been placed that interfered with UNMISS’s ability to do its work and humanitarian actors ability to do their work. And this is a message that we will deliver to all the parties that we meet with including the government. It is so important to let the UN do its work to let it do its job. And to allow the UN to be a partner in the effort that many leaders are trying to make and bring peace back to this country. The negative rhetoric about the UN doesn’t help anybody it just makes the UN a target and endangers South Sudanese civilians so it has stop.
Finally I just want close by stressing that there is a conversion very dire economic circumstances that I know that the government is very focused on very alarming inflation, very alarming economic deterioration. Security circumstances I gather there has been again a return to some sense of normalcy here in Juba but in large parts of the country of course fighting persist even as recently as today.
And the humanitarian conditions for the displaced and for those that haven’t been reached by South Sudanese authorities or by the international community those conditions are so dire. We have a lot of die situations in the World this is one of the worse. And we are prepared as international community to continue to invest in standing with the people of South Sudan but we need the government of South Sudan to do its part and allow the UN and the humanitarian community to be the partners that they really want to be again to the South Sudanese people.
So we are here to listen and learn I agree very much with what my colleague had said that we will come out of South Sudan knowing much more than we know right now but we also really want to move the ball and we really need to see progress on the deployment of the regional protection force and lifting obstruction of humanitarian actors and of UNMISS. And hopefully moving forward under the political agreement which is going to have to be the foundation for stability going forward. Thank you
Senegal Ambassador Fode Seck
As we are negotiating the resolution 2304 we the African member of the security council namely Angola, Egypt and Senegal we discussed it among our ourselves we talked to you we received briefing from different sectors of the this great country population.
The government not directly but through UNMISS but also your vibrant civil society I was surprised how vibrant is the civil society in this country. This certain we also received briefing from those people not to mention the whole UN family and the humanitarian organizations so when we were discussing this resolution we took in consideration all of that Senegal been an African country Angola and Egypt national sovereignty is paramount for our countries.
I want to make it very very clear so when IGAD PLUS came up with their communique asking for this protection force because you resist intervention force because intervention in Africa run a very very unpleasant bells. So this is protection force that’s why the resolution has been adopted (inaudible) . when we were explaining our votes after the vote this South Sudan sovereign integrity was paramount.
You accepted in principle the deployment one paragraph of the IGAD communique made it abundantly clear this deployment will be done in collaboration with the South Sudanese government. I think as we speak now have revealed the recent development here I think the chief of staffs of the sub regional region and yourself have been working and progress have been made.
I think this the spirit in which that the Security Council have come to see you. I don’t have much to add wishing that the meeting that we have with the government tomorrow but also the civil society I understand the President himself will help us to understand more and accompany better the UN is here accompany the UN cannot be here to impose. Thank You.
Questions and answers
Question: Michelle Nichols from Reuters – Do you believe that the government of South Sudan has provided enough cooperation to avoid farther discussion among the Security Council of the imposition of an arms embargo?
Ambassador Samantha Powers: Thank you, what is very significant about Security Council resolution 2304, is that we have very clear bench marks in the resolution and there is a timeframe attached to it.
I don’t think that the negotiations have moved briskly, but they are moving as my colleague from Senegal indicated and I think it is significant that chiefs of defense have engaged as I understand it a couple of times with their South Sudanese counterparts, it is going to be essential that South Sudan welcomes this force which has such a critical role to play in supporting South Sudan’s Peace process.
So since we haven’t yet moved past the time period allotted in the resolution, I think it will be premature to assess whether the level of cooperation is sufficient, but I think it is extremely important and it is one of the reasons we have taken the visit precisely when we have, for us to convey to the government of South Sudan that time is of essence because we are very quickly running up against the deadline and the Secretary General is going to need to be able to report back that cooperation has been forthcoming, that the regional protection force is going to be deployed, that consent at a tactical level is being achieved.
I want to stress one other point, which is there is a lot of focus in the UN Security Council about the regional protection force because we heard concerns articulated from the government of South Sudan and people understandably want to know what the force is going to do and get comfortable with it.
I do agree with Fode that the early references to the force as an intervention brigade may have left a bad taste in some folk’s mouth so part of the reason we are here also is to clarify what the force is here to do, and it is very deliberately as Fode said described as a regional protection force in that it is comprised of forces from the region in order to enhance protection here.
But the second element of the resolution that gets less attention is that UNMISS which is already here is being obstructed and so part of what needs to happen right alongside those negotiations with the RPF is that some of the restrictions on patrolling, the harassment, the rhetoric that treats UNMISS as something other than a partner to peace, that also has to stop. And so it is not on the SC to report about whether the conditions laid out in the resolution have been met but we really hope to see substantial improvement in the relationship between the government of South Sudan and UNMISS and we hope that this visit can help facilitate that improvement and it is a critical part again to the secretary Generals reporting that he will have to do here in a couple of weeks.
David Lukan from Radio Miraya: What would you like to achieve during this visit?
Ambassador Samantha Powers: I think as I just indicated, we would like to see better understanding between the government of South Sudan and the UN and the UN being UNMISS but also the UN Security Council. We would like to see progress made on the regional protection force and we would like to see very concrete commitments with regard to accountability. there has been again a very significant spike in attacks not only against South Sudanese people, not only against international aid workers who are part of the lifeline here to keeping a hungry population afloat, but also attacks against UN peace keepers. We have as part of our delegation, the representative from china whose country suffered horrible causalities in July. There has got to be accountability when civilians are targeted, when UN personnel are targeted. It is very significant; I think that the AU is moving forward with its plans to set up a hybrid court, so we also want to engage the government on that and encourage full cooperation with that court.
Until there is an end to the sense of impunity, that people who kill and block humanitarian aid and commit sexual assault, until that sense of impunity that they have ends; it’s going to be very difficult for there to be lasting peace here in South Sudan. So commitments as it relates to UNMISS and the RPF, commitments as relate to accountability and I think a spirit of partnership we would like to try recapture. Many of us were intensively involved in the efforts to bring about South Sudan’s independence and the Unity of the council, the fact that all permanent members of the council and the non-permanent members united around the effort that the region was making to bring about South Sudan’s independence. That unity was so important. We have unity as well today on behalf of South Sudan’s peace and on behalf of the importance of the people of South Sudan having protection and we would like to see that same spirit of partnership that helped bring South Sudan into being as the most recent member of the United Nations, that Spirit recaptured in the relationships between UNMISS and the humanitarian community and the government of South Sudan.
Interjection by Fode Seck: Ambassador just invited us to visit Juba by night today because security is here in juba, but South Sudan is not only Juba, its other parts of South Sudan, how security can be extended to those other parts of the country. But also many other joint mechanisms have been envisaged in the overall peace agreement, how those mechanisms are functioning or are being reorganized to function better. At the UN we engage South Sudan through also regional organizations – you have IGAD, you have AU, all those are also making their own benchmarks as to how South Sudanese authorities are cooperating with the UN.
Chandell (Inaudible) Agency: If the government refuses to allow UN Forces in South Sudanese, what is your plan B
Ambassador Samantha Powers: I mentioned that there are a lot of people who have been acting with impunity, carrying out killings and rape, looting, stealing humanitarian aid, looting as we saw in Juba even the WFP warehouse they had food for innocent hungry people looted just like that. So people who are operating with impunity don’t want to cooperate with UNMISS and they don’t want to cooperate with the RPF, they don’t want to see UNMISS strengthened, that’s the reason, they want to operate with impunity, so I think what is really important about this visit is that we are focused on plan A, we are united around plan A, we expect the government of South Sudan as the newest member state to the United Nations, to want to end the culture of impunity, to want to end killing and sexual assault and ethnically based attacks and political attacks, so we are here as a council to not have to get to plan B, it will be a grave disappointment not merely for the UN security council but for the people of this country who count on the government. We each have a lot to listen and learn from one another but ultimately again we think that this regional protection force when properly understood, I think we are already seeing progress in this regard, is something that the key leaders in South Sudan will see as being in the interest of the south Sudanese people. If they don’t and if that does not happen, the UN Security council resolution is itself very explicit about what plab B will entail, and the council will have to come together and consider the steps that we have laid out in the resolution which include targeted sanctions and an arms embargo.
But our objective, I want to stress is to not to have to get to that and for the government and for all relevant actors in this country to embrace the RPF and to embrace the UN Family generally as partners in the effort to ensure the security and dignity of the people of this country.
Shantal: ladies and gentlemen that brings us to the end of this interaction. there will be other opportunities over the next few days where you will have of interaction with othetr members of the Security council. thanks very much.