Timely, peaceful democratic transition remains critical for South Sudan says top UN official

Peace South Sudan UNMISS UN peacekeeping peacekeepers elections constitution SRSG Nicholas Haysom Press conference

Speaking at a press conference in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, this morning, the top UN official in the country, Nicholas Haysom emphasized the vital need to adhere to the current Roadmap, which, he says, is already behind schedule. Photo by Carole Abou Farah/UNMISS

24 May 2023

Timely, peaceful democratic transition remains critical for South Sudan says top UN official

Priyanka Chowdhury

CENTRAL EQUATORIA - As South Sudan grapples with multiple challenges, Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), is urging political leaders to galvanize momentum in ongoing peace processes so that free, fair, and credible elections can be held on time.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Juba, this morning, the top UN official in the country underscored the need to adhere to timelines contained within the current Roadmap; the latter he says, is already significantly behind schedule.

The constitution making process, electoral legislation, standing up the necessary institutions and structures, as well as the environment to support robust political competition, require tangible measures,” said Mr. Haysom.

UNMISS, through dialogue-based engagements with a range of stakeholders—women, politicians, youth, faith-based leaders, and the broader civil society—is attempting to bolster a conducive political and civic space as well as avenues for constructive dialogue to enable citizens to fully participate in shaping their future, revealed the SRSG.

The aim, according to Mr. Haysom: Generating shared responsibility to advance the peace process.

“The scale and importance of what remains to be done does not leave room for inaction. We still see 2023 as a ‘make or break’ year for this nation if it is to fully implement the Peace Agreement,” he added, while acknowledging that the longer catastrophic conflict in Sudan continues, the more significant security, economic and humanitarian consequences for South Sudan.

While SRSG Haysom commended South Sudan’s open-door policy for refugees, he expressed his belief that the nation's leaders must not “lose sight of the critical need to address its own internal security challenges,” adding that human rights bodies have recorded violations in various parts of the country with with a reported increase in violent incidents affecting civilians compared to the same period last year.

“I was profoundly alarmed that our human rights team has recorded at least 22 civilians killed in Warrap through extrajudicial executions,” said the Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission.

Relatedly, SRSG Haysom spoke about the mission’s continued support for government efforts to deploy ad hoc courts, including mobile courts, in areas where conventional courts have limited presence, as well as military court martials. “The deployment of these courts has enabled justice to be administered to some of the victims of human rights violations and abuses. Just this week, the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces Yei General Court Martial officially opened at the Yei Garrison,” he averred. “We want, as UNMISS, to be a part of the solution to the challenges facing South Sudan."

The UN envoy also warned that the influx of returnees and refugees along the shared border with Sudan has led to reports from Renk in Upper Nile State indicating that competition for access to the hosting areas has taken on an ethnic dimension. This, coupled with the dangerously congested UN Protection of Civilians site in Malakal, means that the risk "for bottlenecks to spill over into violence is real and it is, accordingly, critical, for the war in Sudan to be brought to an end,” he stated.

For its part, UNMISS, said Mr Haysom, as mandated by the UN Security Council, is continuing to do all it can to protect civilians, ensure the safety and security of displaced persons and establish temporary bases around conflict hotspots. “We are also front-loading our military protection presence with intensive dialogue and engagement at the national and state levels,” he emphasized.

The SRSG highlighted UNMISS protective escorts for humanitarian partners enabling them to pre-position food aid for the survival of communities in the ongoing lean or rainy season, especially in Jonglei, one of the most food-insecure states in South Sudan, which is also the most dangerous country for aid workers who are frequently attacked.

Furthermore, peacekeepers, according to SRSG Haysom, are helping communities cope with climate shocks by shoring up dykes as well as proactively mitigating seasonal conflict cycles caused by cattle migration.

While wrapping up his briefing to members of the press, Mr. Haysom elaborated on a recent perception survey commissioned by the UN Peacekeeping mission to help gauge the views, expectations, and concerns of the general South Sudanese public.

The polls were conducted in all 10 states, and the results indicate that people strongly believe, firstly, that the elections should take place, and secondly, in UN support for those elections. The survey also shows that people who are apprehensive of the elections nonetheless want it to happen. We in the UN family stand ready to support the South Sudanese, as requested,” he said.

“We can’t do this work alone. This is why we in UNMISS put a premium on enhancing our strategic relationships — with the African Union, with IGAD, with EU, and the Troika, the broader international community, as well as South Sudanese communities and South Sudanese stakeholders. This is to promote greater coherence among international partners in our efforts but also to support greater ownership by South Sudanese of the outcomes of this transition.”