Statement by Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of UNMISS at the 34th RJMEC Plenary Meeting
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
As we begin the year, it is appropriate to review on progress of the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, particularly as it relates to finalizing the building blocks for elections at the end of this year.
In my briefing to the Security Council last December, I highlighted the urgent need for the parties to take decisive actions as well as allocate commensurate resources to implementing a "critical mass" of the pre-requisites for credible and peaceful elections. With less than 11 months, a lot more needs to be done, much of which relates to decision making by the parties to the Agreement.
I acknowledge the swearing-in of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the Political Parties Council (PPC), and the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC). This enables a series of activities on the framework for election management, preparation of priority tasks and budgets to operationalize the plans. The Political Parties Council we note has begun the registration of political parties.
I have also noted recent efforts by the Presidency to engage some key civil society actors on the peace process and elections preparation. This is important as these engagements help create an environment for constructive commitments on critical provisions of the peace agreement, but also provide an opportunity to engage civil society in regard to the information they want as it relates to the direction of the country. It complements the call by many South Sudanese civil society groups to play an enhanced role in shaping a path towards inclusive governance.
While noting progress in setting up the key institutions for credible and peaceful elections; However, we note that the cornerstone is a conductive security environment. The inability to finalize the Transitional Security Arrangements remains a threat to peace before, during and after the elections. It is critical for the parties to agree on the middle command structure, advance the SDSR process in order to facilitate the commencement of security sector reforms, and to train and deploy the Necessary Unified Forces. In parallel, the electoral security plan must be agreed.
Tensions in northern Unity between SSPDF and SPLA-IO, as well as the fragile situation regarding the Dinka Twic and Ngok Dinka, with the involvement now of Nuer communities, is a major inhibitor, together with other instances of intercommunal conflict, to an ideal environment for open political competition. I welcome the 5 February meeting between President Kiir and First Vice President Machar on the conflict between such communities and the joint call for an end to the violence. Such high-level meetings are crucial to demonstrate unity of purpose in the management of the transition.
Recent views from some civil society groups and academics highlight an appetite for elections, however, there are legitimate concerns about the preparedness of key institutions, particularly the state security apparatus. It is also evident that the electoral and constitution-making commissions lack the resources, including office space and equipment, to move at the pace needed to achieve the desired readiness across the country.
On our part, UNMISS has supported the NEC and the NCRC to conduct the induction workshops to generate their workplans and budgets, as well as the Political Parties Commission on the development of a Political Parties Code of Conduct, which will frame the legitimate parameters of political behaviors. UNMISS has also facilitated a nationwide virtual meeting for the NEC with its state offices to introduce the new Board of Commissioners and prepare for the reconstitution of State Elections Committees as provided for in the law.
Later this month, UNMISS together with the African Union and IGAD will jointly brief the African Union Peace and Security Council on progress in electoral preparations and our joint efforts to support these. We welcome the recent engagements of the German Foreign Minister, the EU and Troika envoys, and the African Union Commission with the government in Juba which we interpret as an engagement with South Sudan as a whole.
The ongoing conflict in Sudan continues to drive thousands of people across the borders into South Sudan, seeking refuge and safety. Along the border routes in the northern states, transit centers are overwhelmed and tested in their absorption capacity to accept the continuing flow. In Upper Nile, the influx of refugees and returnees continued to put pressure on Renk and the humanitarian needs and means to deal with this problem.
As of 1 February, humanitarian partners have registered an inflow of over 540,000 refugees and returnees from Sudan. Currently, only 4% of the 2024 South Sudan Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan is funded. While the government has appealed to the international community to raise funds to support the refugees and returnees from Sudan, it also means that it must do more amid competing priorities and global funding challenges.
To conclude, my recent engagement in the region and with international partners both inside and outside suggest that there is a growing appreciation of the intent of the South Sudanese to proceed with elections. There are, however, valid concerns about the lack of delivery of key commitments and processes that will allow for the implementation of the elections’ agenda.
I welcome the government's plan to submit a supplementary budget for the elections, and we look forward to the details. Transparency about the state of preparedness as it relates to electoral, constitutional and security structures will allow partners to define their support. Nevertheless, urgent focus should be on:
- Progressing the Transitional Security Arrangements and prioritizing electoral security
- Secondly, deciding on the type of elections to be held, with agreement on a realistic electoral calendar which takes into account operational, logistical, security and legal considerations.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting and working with the South Sudanese parties, the trilateral, regional, international, and bilateral partners to build the foundations for democracy, good governance, peace, and stability.
I thank you.