South Sudan’s progress uneven, says SRSG

22 Mar 2013

South Sudan’s progress uneven, says SRSG

21 March 2013 - South Sudan's transition towards a stable, viable state was continuing at an uneven pace, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council in New York today.

Internal security challenges, especially inter-communal violence in several areas and armed group activity, posed grave threats to civilians, said Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of UNMISS Hilde F. Johnson.

"The situation in Jonglei State remains a source of major concern and presents complex challenges for both UNMISS and the government," Ms. Johnson said.

The largest state in South Sudan, Jonglei has been the scene of heightened inter-communal violence since the country became independent from Sudan in July 2011. Recent weeks have seen an increase in heavy fighting between national authorities and David Yau Yau's armed groups.

"The government remains committed to finding a peaceful solution," Ms. Johnson said, but cautioned that "the window for dialogue is closing and ... military operations may soon be launched".

Although the government had committed to protect civilians during its operations, people could be caught in the crossfire, she added.

In case of potential fighting, UNMISS had developed contingency plans, including strengthening its troop presence, increasing civilian-military patrols to identify potential attacks and continuing to engage with vulnerable communities, Ms. Johnson said.

She also told the 15-member Council that the UN's operational environment "has become more challenging due to a number of grave violations" to the agreement between the UN and South Sudan.

The most egregious of these violations, Ms. Johnson said, was the 21 December 2012 shooting of an UNMISS helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of four Russian crew members.

"We have engaged the government on this matter at the highest levels to urge a swift and transparent investigation," the SRSG said, in accordance with international civil aviation rules.

In addition, a UN peacekeeper on patrol was attacked last week by an unidentified armed group in Jonglei and medically evacuated.

The Special Representative also warned about the continuing proliferation of weapons in South Sudan, which has "serious implications" for regional security and stability as well as civilians in the country.

She added that South Sudan remained afflicted by internal security and political fault-lines, which continued to render it fragile and had potential spillover effects.
"Every effort to mitigate that risk and keep South Sudan on a path to stability and prosperity will contribute to the stability of the whole region," she said.