Statement by Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General & Head of UNMISS at the 30th RJMEC Plenary Meeting [As Delivered]
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
I thank the RJMEC for the opportunity to brief you again today.
Since our last meeting, both you and I have briefed the United Nations Security Council on the political and security developments over the last three months. I highlighted that the conflict in Sudan continues to affect the political, humanitarian, security, and economic situation in South Sudan. I commended the positive role South Sudan continues to make in welcoming returnees and refugees, with or without documentation, as well as the constructive efforts of IGAD and South Sudan in the Sudanese mediation efforts. Finally, I cautioned against taking our eyes of the ball on South Sudan’s peace process.
I acknowledge efforts made through the recently tabled draft national budget for 2023-2024, which allocates about SSP50 billion to peace implementation, however a sense of urgency is required to move forward; especially to provide these resources to the mechanisms of the Agreement which will allow for the implementation of critical tasks.
I welcome the establishment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) for the implementation of Constitution-Making and Electoral Processes which held its inaugural meeting on 1 June. Subsequently, working-level meetings have been held on 6 and 15 June, and discussions on a draft national elections budget are ongoing. The Joint Task Force must be used as a forum to help accelerate implementation of the roadmap.
Relatedly, UNMISS and UNDP have supported the Parliamentary Committee on Legislation and Justice in a two-day consultation with civil society actors on the affirmative action provisions of the National Elections Act. I believe that the ground is now primed for a speedy deliberation and submission of recommendations to Parliament so as to enable the passage of the Act.
Let me commend the African Union Mission in South Sudan for convening the inaugural principals’ meeting of the Special Reconstruction Fund (SRF), which is essential for the program for reconstruction and infrastructure development, as envisaged under Chapter Three of the Agreement. The next step is for the Transitional Government to form the Board to pave the way for the UN, AU, and IGAD to commence arrangements for the South Sudan Pledging Conference.
Time is of the essence as key components of the Transitional Security Arrangements remains behind schedule. It is critical for the parties to resolve the appointments of what we call the middle echelon of the command structure so that the first batch of the Necessary Unified Forces can be deployed, and Phase 2 of the Transitional Security Arrangements can commence.
After three months, there have been divergent views on whether the deadlock that emerged as a result of the removal of the Defense and Interior Ministers and the subsequent swapping of the same portfolios has been resolved, but we encourage the Presidency and the parties to address the remaining sticking points.
A conducive political and security environment is non-negotiable given we are in the penultimate lap of implementing free, fair, and credible elections. In my engagements in New York, I shared the frank views expressed by some government officials, political parties, civil society, and many of you here in this plenary that South Sudan today is not yet ready at this point to roll out free, fair, and credible elections.
South Sudan can however make significant strides towards this December 2024 target with political will, adequate resourcing, and a commitment to create an appropriate political environment. In this regard, I echo the call made by IGAD last month urging the national legislature to expedite the reconstitution of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Political Parties Council (PPC).
The ongoing conflict in Sudan continues to drive thousands of people across the borders into South Sudan, seeking refuge and safety. As people arrive, transit, and move to their destinations of choice, increased competition amongst communities in congested sites over scarce resources has exacerbated existing tensions, as we witnessed in Renk.
The situation in and around Malakal remains volatile following the intercommunal clashes at the Protection of Civilian (PoC) site on 8 June. Recent claims of mobilizations in Upper Nile State, threatens vulnerable communities and the Mission has appealed to all parties to exercise maximum restraint. We have deployed additional peacekeepers to strengthen security in and around the PoC site.
I would like to acknowledge the effective coordination and cooperation with the Governor of Upper Nile, the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, South Sudan National Police Service, and National Security Service in restoring calm and maintaining security. The Mission will continue to actively monitor the situation with the expectation that tensions are likely to rise due to continuing congestion and competition for scarce resources.
Humanitarians continue to support the vulnerable populations, even with the additional strain on the humanitarian resources of the UN, and other agencies and partners, and the international community generally. As of 3 July – the midpoint of the year – only 35 per cent of the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded despite the increasing needs from refugees and returnees spawned by the Sudan war.
To conclude, I wish to share that as the 12th anniversary of South Sudanese independence approaches, my assessment from interactions with regional and international partners here and outside suggest the need to deepen mutual trust and to build common purpose. I believe there may be more international willingness to support the peace process even further if there are demonstrable actions and the right frameworks to allow for assistance. Key decisions about electoral, constitutional and security structures must be made urgently; and these decisions do not require additional resources for them to be made.
I assure the parties that the United Nations family remain committed to supporting and working with other regional and international partners for peace and stability.
I thank you.