Statement of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. David Shearer, Briefing to the African Union Peace and Security Council on the situation in South Sudan, 14 November 2019
Thank you Mr. President and members of the Peace and Security Council.
I welcome this opportunity to brief you on the situation in South Sudan following the decision by the Parties extend for a further 100 days.
I would like to thank President Yoweri Museveni and President Abdalfatah Alburhan for bringing the political leaders together to reach this decision.
The mood in Juba is relief that the existing ceasefire will be preserved. However, civil society representatives have also told me that there is a sense of disappointment and some anger that leaders failed to reach the point where a transitional government could be formed.
The citizens of South Sudan have high expectations that peace will be realized.
Over the past year, their political leaders have met some, but certainly not all, of those expectations.
Meanwhile, their people continue to suffer. Around 7.2 million people need humanitarian assistance. About 1.4 million people remain displaced within the country while another 2.2 million are living as refugees.
Recent flooding has exacerbated the situation with more than 900,000 people affected. Humanitarian agencies are making heroic efforts to respond. But the consequences of damaged crops will further limit food supplies for many families.
While the situation remains bleak for many South Sudanese, the last year of peace has kick-started a transformative process that is improving lives.
More than 130 peace meetings / rapprochements have been held across the country. At these meetings, I have personally witnessed former enemies, once committed to killing each other, sitting amicably across the table planning a future together.
There is a real and palpable desire for peace, particularly at the grassroots level.
None want to go back to war. But some will tell me – and my colleagues – privately that they will fight if ordered to.
The ceasefire came about because the leaders said to stop fighting. The responsibility for its continuation also, therefore, lies with them.
No other achievement of the peace process comes close to the change that that has been brought about by the ceasefire.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been saved, that might otherwise have been lost. Humanitarian access has improved and trade is increasing. The confidence generated by the peace process has also encouraged 600,000 displaced people to return home.
In many parts of the country, the news about the 100-day extension is only beginning to filter through. There is real uncertainty about what it means in practical terms.
I therefore urge all the parties to publicly recommit to maintaining the ceasefire to give people the confidence they need to get on with their lives.
One hundred days is not long.
What will ultimately determine whether this period is successful or not is political will. And to a large part, that political will is determined by trust and confidence in each other.
But political will by itself also need to be formalized into progress on the ground – and measured according to implementation benchmarks. So, let me add our support to the efforts of IGAD for a robust mechanism to ensure the parties make the necessary compromises to meet those benchmarks.
I would like to touch very briefly on key issues where particular attention is needed.
The reunification of forces. Will we have a fully integrated military with a completed DDR exercise at the end of 100 days? No. But the implementation process should be advanced sufficiently to give all parties trust and confidence coming into a transitional government that it is well on track and will continue to progress- with realistic / measurable benchmarks.
States and boundaries. This issue requires negotiation and a political settlement. It also requires a defined process and mechanism to move forward in a structured way. The leaders need to work urgently to reach a compromise.
Resources for implementing the peace agreement. This is the issue that people are talking about most. We continue to hear different figures about how much funding has been disbursed. The NPTC has talked about $44 million while the President said in a recent speech that it was $33 million. Reports from security mechanisms themselves suggest it is considerably less.
What we do know is that troops gathering in cantonment sites have little choice but to leave because they do not have the resources needed to survive. That is starting to happen.
The bottom line is that transparency is needed urgently.
A trust fund or a similar structure is needed with independent oversight. This may have the additional benefit of attracting much-needed support from donors. Under the current approach, it won’t.
Resolution of the uncertain status of Dr. Machar. This ongoing obstacle is surely not difficult to fix by IGAD and the government. IGAD should lift all restrictions. And the South Sudan Government should issue Dr Machar with a passport – in the spirit of building trust and confidence.
In closing, I would like to touch briefly on the UN Security Council visit last month. The delegation spent more than six hours hearing from stakeholders, including the President, Dr. Machar and other parties. It came away with a very clear understanding of the issues and challenges.
I can report that the strong statement issued by the AU Peace and Security Council just 24 hours prior to their visit also influenced their view on the peace process.
My observation speaking to them by VTC last week is that they remain engaged and unified.
Stepping up in the peace process is key. It can’t be, as a young civil society leader said to me, ‘business as usual’.
Let us not forget that the formation of the transitional government provides is the kick off point for elections that enables differences to be resolved through democratic rather than violent means.
I would like to end by acknowledging the ongoing hard work and commitment of the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ambassador Dr. Ismail Wais, to progressing the peace process.
I also recognize the African Union, in particular the Commission and this Council for their steadfast support and would encourage the C5 Foreign Ministers to visit South Sudan to lend their support to the implementation process.
Most critically, the active, ongoing intervention of the Guarantors, Uganda and Sudan, is essential over the coming 100 days.
Together, our efforts will go a long way to achieve the AU goal of ‘silencing the guns’. Let us make peace a reality for South Sudan in 2020.