South Sudan making progress in state-building

3 Nov 2011

South Sudan making progress in state-building

2 November 2011 -- South Sudan had made significant progress in establishing state institutions and integrating militias into the national army, but still faced security challenges, UNMISS chief Hilde F. Johnson said in New York today.

Outlining at a UN Headquarters news conference the nation's key achievements since it became independent from Sudan in July, Ms. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, cited the formation of a new and more representative government.

She also noted that South Sudan had founded a new legislature, comprising a legislative assembly and a council of states. "Of course there is much to be done to strengthen and develop these democratic institutions, but it is important to acknowledge that these have been put in place."

Consultations had also begun on new laws regulating political parties and elections as well as an envisaged constitutional review, Ms. Johnson said.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese had returned to the new country over the past three months with the support of UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations.

"There is a nine-month grace period for South Sudanese outside the country to return from the north ... and by March/April we should see the process completed," she said.

Ms. Johnson cited as a "very major achievement" the government's effort to have members of three important rebel groups or renegade militias – forces of David Yau Yau, Gatluak Gai and Peter Gatdet -- integrated into the national army, the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA).

Some militias still needed to be brought into the fold, she said, noting that reintegration had benefited from an amnesty declared by President Salva Kiir allowing rebels to join the army without repercussions. "We hope to see more of the remaining militia leaders coming back."

Ms. Johnson identified violence in Jonglei State as the first test of the new mission and government in ensuring security and protecting civilians. UNMISS was active in Jonglei trying to ensure that reprisal attacks did not occur following bloody violence there in August between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities.

"Through a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach we have together with the government of South Sudan been able to so far deter retaliatory attacks, and we have also facilitated a reconciliation process where the church has taken the lead in trying to bring the communities together and prevent retaliatory attacks," she said.

It was encouraging, Ms. Johnson added, that the SPLA had also been deployed in Jonglei, with strong instructions to protect civilians.

On civilian disarmament, Ms. Johnson said UNMISS was supporting the process with advice and presence, as it was not firmly anchored in the mission's mandate. Currently, the process was ongoing in three states and was almost complete in Lakes.

"This (in Lakes State) has been a successful disarmament, in the sense that it has been community led," she observed. "It has been led by chiefs, traditional leaders ... and it has been undertaken in a way that has been ... without any incidents whatsoever."

Regarding relations between South Sudan and Sudan, Ms. Johnson said it was crucial that outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which paved the way for the new state's independence, be resolved amicably for peace and stability to take root.