Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary General Mr. Nicholas Haysom to the United Nations Security Council
New York, 15 December 2021: Thank you for this opportunity to brief on developments in South Sudan.
During my last briefing, I conveyed the hope that South Sudan was ready to take significant strides in advancing the Revitalised Peace Agreement. Since then, regrettably, there has been reduced momentum on implementing critical aspects of the Agreement, albeit with some progress on the following areas.
On 29 November, South Sudan concluded its fifth National Governors Forum. This forum brought together leaders from all 10 states and two administrative areas to enhance policy coordination and best practices in government. It marked the first high-level meeting of all members of government since the signing of the peace agreement in 2018. I commend South Sudan’s leaders for their commitment to dialogue in this forum, including debating contentious issues.
Parliamentary appointments have continued, with members of the Other Political Parties resolving divisions over parliamentary seats, paving the way for the appointment of their members to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States.
By December, President Salva Kiir had reconstituted and appointed members of nine state assemblies. While we commend the parties for achieving the required 35 per cent benchmark for appointing women in Central Equatoria State, we note the shortfall in the other states.
I welcome the adoption of the Constitution-making Process Bill (2021) by the Council of Ministers. Once approved by Parliament, it will guide the permanent constitution-making process, a pre-requisite for elections.
We are encouraged by the conclusion today, of a three-day conference on transitional justice. It provided an open forum for dialogue between state and non-state actors in identifying strategies for enhancing restorative justice and accountability.
On 4 November, the government held its first ever Interactive Dialogue with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Separately, I note the 30 November launch of the Joint Committee to implement the action plan for the armed forces on addressing Conflict Related Sexual Violence.
Furthermore, I welcome the government’s decision of November 2021 to re-join the Sant’Egidio process and encourage the holdout groups, especially the National Salvation Front, to join the process without any preconditions.
The steps taken so far in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement are welcome, however, they are not sufficient if the momentum to realise peace is to be sustained.
The failure of the parties to reach an agreement on command ratios have promoted a fracturing of the SPLM/A-IO. Since my last briefing, mediation efforts that began in Khartoum—seeking to bridge the divide on Chapter II issues, and to heal the SPLM/A-IO split with its Kitgwang faction—have been undermined by the political crisis in Sudan.
Let me underline that government bears a special responsibility to facilitate the establishment of the Necessary Unified Forces, including through the provision of resources. This is only an initial step in a complex but essential process of constructing a national army—one that is a symbol and mirror of the unity of its people.
On 8 December 2021, I met with President Salva Kiir and I raised concerns over the reduced momentum in implementation of the peace agreement. I am happy to announce that after our meeting, the Joint Defense Board announced some progress on the Implementation of the transitional security arrangements. Funds have now been released to the Joint Defense Board for screening soldiers at Training Centers preliminary to graduation of unified forces. Delivery of food and medicines has also commenced.
The President has announced that the elections will be held in 2023. While I note that members of presidency are yet to coalesce around an electoral timetable, the next year presents a dramatic challenge if South Sudan is to complete its transition. It will require both technical and political preparation including an agreement on the constitution as well as on the rules governing the election. This demands a sense of urgency in implementing all aspects of the peace agreement.
We expect the domestic political temperature to rise as elections draw closer. I am, therefore, deeply concerned at the restrictions on civic space, including in response to calls for non-violent demonstrations by the People’s Coalition for Civil Action. I urge the government to promote the fundamental rights of all South Sudanese, including freedom of expression, to create a platform for a democratic dialogue in a free and fair electoral process.
I am concerned by the slow operationalisation of parliament. As the year concludes and South Sudan heads towards a legislative recess, there is a risk of a ‘logjam’ on critical bills to facilitate constitution-making, elections preparations, the establishment of national justice institutions, adopting the national budget and progressing public financial reforms.
While a number of laws have been drafted and passed by the Council of Ministers, the standing committees to consider and debate these bills are yet to be established. UNMISS and partners have already intensified support for legislative and constitution-making processes, including capacity-building support for women parliamentarians, the newly formed Youth Caucus, and the National Constitutional Amendment Committee.
We continue to work on building the justice chain, including through the deployment of mobile courts, without which our efforts to promote criminal accountability and contain extrajudicial killings would be difficult.
It’s clear there are headwinds in all of these tasks. I call on the parties to muster a renewed sense of political will and to build trust so as to avoid a state of paralysis, and, in a worst-case scenario, a collapse of the peace agreement.
I am also concerned that multiple regional crises are reducing the political bandwidth for international attention on South Sudan, at a time when international support is urgently needed. This concern was shared at the recent conference held in Uganda, attended by key stakeholders and guarantors, including several Special Envoys on South Sudan. The subsequent decision by the President of Uganda to host a South Sudan leadership retreat in January is welcomed and should be supported in order to give impetus to the peace process.
With regard to our concern over the protection of civilians, the permanent ceasefire is holding. In fact, partly because of UNMISS, the number of civilian casualties attributed to localised violence has roughly halved this year, compared to the same period last year. Civilians still bear the brunt of conflict in South Sudan —perpetuating cycles of trauma and revenge that undermine the prospects for longer-term reconciliation and social healing.
The Mission is doing all that it can, within our capabilities, to support the government in its primary responsibility to protect civilians. Our concern is to rise above firefighting modalities and build more durable solutions to conflict.
The Mission continues to adapt its strategy responding to conflict hotspots in an integrated manner, including through the flexible deployment of Temporary Operating Bases. These TOBs have enabled the Mission to deploy rapidly to hotspots for conflict resolution and create conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance, as in Tambura, Western Equatoria, to provide a stabilizing environment, as in Warrap and Jonglei, or to provide a security umbrella for the safe and dignified return of displaced people, as in Koch, Unity State.
Meanwhile, UNMISS continues to oversee the POC site in Malakal. Planning continues for its eventual re-designation, but only once political and security dynamics allow.
I’m pleased to report a continuous reduction on restrictions on UNMISS patrols since the formation of a High-Level Coordination Committee between the Mission and Government of South Sudan earlier this year. We now hope to deal with other violations of the Status of Forces Agreement, through that same committee.
The briefing from OCHA will highlight the dire humanitarian situation, which in turn is reflected in anger and frustration by a politically and economically marginalised youth. Recently I visited Bentiu, Unity State, which is reeling from the worst floods in six decades. The situation is truly shocking. Flood waters are not receding and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and in desperate need of assistance. I commend the tireless efforts of UNMISS peacekeepers alongside the humanitarian community. All have been working around-the-clock since September to construct over 70km of dykes to keep the menacing water at bay, and prevent a disastrous collapse of infrastructure.
This all demonstrates South Sudan’s high vulnerability to climate change. I can share with you that a newly established UNMISS-UN Country Team Working Group on Climate Change and Security will develop integrated strategies to address such climate-related security risks.
With the broader Horn of Africa region facing complex political, security and humanitarian challenges, it is essential now, more than ever, to ensure that South Sudan remains stable. I am pleased to mention that during my engagements with the African Union Commission and the African Union Ad Hoc Committee for South Sudan (C5) in Addis Ababa last week, there were strong commitments made to re-engage, at the highest levels, in support of the peace process.
What’s at stake here is the continued viability of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. Allow me, Mr. President, to re-affirm the commitment of UNMISS and the entire UN family to the people and government of South Sudan to this endeavour.