Statement by Mr. Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS at the 32nd RJMEC plenary meeting
Excellencies and distinguished guests,
I thank the RJMEC for the opportunity to brief you again today.
Since our last meeting, I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the political and security developments in South Sudan over the last three months. I noted the delays in setting up the electoral architecture and highlighted the need for demonstrable political will to reach compromise and resolve outstanding issues.
I also had the opportunity to discuss the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement with President Kiir in Juba and New York. President Kiir also had a meeting with the UN Secretary-General on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. During all these engagements, as well as in his address to the General Assembly, the President reiterated his commitment to regional peace and security, and recognized the importance of expediting the implementation of the remaining provisions in the Agreement to ensure a peaceful conclusion of the transitional period through free, fair, and credible elections in 2024.
Since the engagements in New York, I note the passage into law of the National Elections Act, which is an important first step for the electoral process to commence. With 14 months remaining to elections, establishing and resourcing the elections and constitution-making bodies should be prioritized.
There has been no progress on the constitution-making process since we last convened. According to the Roadmap, the constitution-making process is envisaged to conclude in July 2024 - six months ahead of elections in December 2024. I encourage the parties to reach an agreement on the way forward.
I also encourage the Joint Task Force for the Implementation of the Constitution-Making and Electoral Processes to resume its monthly meetings and address issues related to electoral and constitution-making processes. During the last meeting on 27 July, the AU, IGAD, and UNMISS presented to the Joint Task Force a list of 10 priority issues for urgent consideration and agreement.
A conducive political and security environment, level playing for all political parties as well as civic and political space are critical before, during and after elections. I note the preparation of a national electoral security action plan is ongoing and encourage a multipartisan approach to build confidence. These efforts are inextricably linked to finalizing the Transitional Security Arrangements and addressing general insecurity across the country, in particular to mitigate subnational violence in order to instill confidence that the constitution making process and elections will be conducted in a safe and secured environment.
In this regard, it is essential to expedite the integration and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces. The recent order of the Joint Defence Board for Phase I graduates to return to training facilities with their weapons, within seven days for initial deployment, and for recruits for Phase II for training, must be respected. We look forward to receiving an update today from the relevant mechanisms.
As of 29 September, over 290, 000 individuals have arrived in South Sudan due to the conflict in Sudan. While I commend South Sudan’s efforts in welcoming returnees and refugees, I am concerned about the impact on the country’s dire humanitarian situation. Decreased humanitarian funding has led to reductions in anticipated food distributions in Bentiu, which sparked tensions and protests in the IDP camp. South Sudan requires support from international donors to tackle the impact of the Sudan crisis, however, the Government also needs to allocate adequate funding to help meet its own humanitarian and public service responsibilities.
Insecurity due to ambushes and looting continues to impact food delivery – for example, on 8 September in Wau, WFP had to temporarily suspend its humanitarian services. With 40 documented cases so far this year, South Sudan has recorded the highest number of attacks against aid workers, with the most recent attack on UN-contracted trucks along the Yei-Juba Road that resulted in two drivers killed. We condemn these attacks on humanitarians and urge the authorities to ensure that all those found responsible are held to account thereby ensuring a safe environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
A sense of urgency is needed to progress implementation of the Roadmap, regain the trust of citizens and persuade the international community’s goodwill to invest in the South Sudanese peace project.
To make any progress in the political landscape, key electoral institutions: the National Constitutional Review Commission, National Elections Commission, and Political Parties Council need to be reconstituted and resourced.
What is sought by South Sudanese is not just “elections” but free, fair and credible elections- in short, a level playing field. Until the Political Parties Council is functioning, no party can lawfully register. As some of these parties witness the heightened political activity and campaigning of the SPLM-IG, they increasingly charge that this single party is being irreversibly privileged.
Equally, the graduated forces of the NUF have to be deployed so that the second phase can commence.
UNMISS stands ready in concert with RJMEC, the AU, IGAD, and the international community, to support the Government to advance the peace process.