Statement by Mr. Nicholas Haysom Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS at the 24th RJMEC Plenary
RJMEC Interim Chair, Members of the RJMEC Board, Excellencies and distinguished guests,
Thank you for the opportunity to address this forum and to reflect on next steps for implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan.
It is UNMISS’s view that the Roadmap offered a much needed opportunity for completing South Sudan’s transitional timetable. But in and of itself, the Roadmap offers no guarantees. There needs to be consistent and continued progress on the revised benchmarks to which the parties recommitted themselves to but a few months ago. We see this not as a box-ticking exercise, but rather, a qualitative process to lay the proper foundations for a stable and democratic nation. I acknowledge the ratification of the Roadmap by the Transitional National Legislature.
Since our last meeting, there has been some distinct movement forward. But it is slow and it is uncertain. I welcome the passage of critical bills in parliament, such as the Constitution-Making Process Bill, National Police Bill and the National Wildlife Service Act and ‘the Roadmap Bill’. I call on parliament to finalize the National Elections Act in order to pave the way for the reconstitution of the National Elections Commission – a task that is overdue. I therefore applaud the directives of President Salva Kiir that the parliament continue working until important bills related to the Roadmap are passed.
UNMISS continues to urge South Sudan to promote women’s participation in governance and leadership positions, and to not only meet but exceed the agreed quotas on as outlined in the peace agreement.
I wish to recognize the graduations of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF) taking place across the country. It is essential that deployment plans are finalized and implemented so that the NUF can contribute to intercommunal harmony in South Sudan. “Phase two”, of the graduation must receive adequate logistical and political support to ensure an expeditious process, and to enable them to protect civilians in a timely and responsive manner. I further recall the request of this forum for the government to commence a program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration without delay.
For our part, UNMISS looks forward to exploring together with the Government of National Unity how to support the development of the Necessary Unified Forces in line with the country’s vision for security sector transformation that will, see one day, a security apparatus that expresses and reflects national unity and accountability to elected civilian authorities.
Subnational violence continues to drive the growth of humanitarian need in South Sudan, with 8.9 million people in need of assistance. The humanitarian situation is compounded by bigger collective challenges like climate and flooding.
On this note, I continue to be concerned with the militarization of the Nile River, and call on all actors to respect this as a sacred national asset: not only as a passage for humanitarian assistance but also as a vital lifeline for sustainable economic development. Applicable national and international laws should be used to deter the extortion and abuse of those using Nile River.
We are particularly concerned by the ethnic fracturing, clashes and displacement in northern Jonglei and Upper Nile, as well as intercommunal violence around the Abyei area and ongoing cattle-raiding and migration-related conflicts. With the dry season approaching, UNMISS will continue to prioritize the protection of civilians in our efforts to mitigate the effects of subnational violence; but the government should also work hard to meet its obligations.
While I welcome the government’s activation of investigation committees to address and investigate the causes of subnational conflicts, I urge these bodies to conclude their work and share their findings in a timely manner. These would be meaningful steps in demonstrating the government’s commitment to accountability for perpetrators, justice for survivors, and a pathway to reconciliation and trauma healing for all impacted communities.
Security and political tensions continue to simmer across the country, and these will intensify as the electoral date draws closer. We urge Government of National Unity to tackle these challenges holistically, including by opening up civic and political space and inculcating a culture of non-violent debate and dispute resolution.
To support the Roadmap, together with our partners, and at the request of the African Union Peace and Security Council, we’ve stood up a trilateral task force with the AU and IGAD/RJMEC, to coordinate support to the government in the permanent constitution-making process and the conduct of credible elections. The task force will be developing its own timetable so as to cross-check key deadlines in the Roadmap’s implementation. This will help the international community to align its own support and advocacy.
The clock has not stopped. The international community, in particular, needs to see progress if they are going to continue investing—politically and financially—in the future of this country. Our partners made this clear during the recent visit of the UN Chef de Cabinet and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. I join in calls from the parties to engage with a renewed sense of urgency and to treat the benchmarks as critical deadlines.
In that regard, I raise an alert on the slippage of early timelines contained in the Roadmap, and encourage timely efforts to reconstitute:
a. the Political Parties Council;
b. the National Constitutional Review Commission;
c. the Constitutional Drafting Committee; and
d. the National Elections Commission.
In conclusion, we hold the view that the extension of the transitional period is a second mortgage on the Revitalized Peace Agreement—one which must be repaid in good faith and within the timeframes stipulated. As moral guarantors and partners of that Agreement, our task is to ensure that the parties have the best possible opportunity to fulfil their commitments to the people of South Sudan.
With that, I thank you.