Top UN envoy condemns attacks on civilians, humanitarians; pledges electoral support
JUBA - As subnational violence surges in parts of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, communities here are also grappling with a deepening humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by climate change and COVID-19.
Additionally, recent weeks have seen increased political tensions and competition.
It is against this complex backdrop, that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Nicholas Haysom, held a press conference at the mission’s headquarters in Juba today.
His first order of business: Addressing renewed violence in Leer, Unity state, where thousands have been displaced, properties destroyed, and sexual violence is said to be rising.
“Only last week thousands of people in Leer, Unity State, were forced to flee their homes following a surge of fighting along with disturbing reports of sexual violence, looting and destruction of civilian and humanitarian property,” said SRSG Haysom, underlining that the impact of conflict is felt directly by communities, especially women and children.
“I strongly condemn these violent attacks on civilians, but, in particular, attacks on humanitarians and looting of their life-saving supplies,” he added.
UNMISS peacekeepers are currently monitoring the situation in Leer, patrolling constantly, and providing emergency medical assistance, as they are in other conflict hotspots across the country.
“We will continue to advocate at the highest levels of government for it to assume a greater responsibility to intervene in the protection of civilians, which includes humanitarians,” assured the SRSG.
For Mr. Haysom, building sustained peace is a collective effort. In this regard, he commended all parties for reaching an agreement on the command-and-control structure of the Necessary Unified Forces, a key stipulation contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement
“I applaud the parties for overcoming the impasse to reach an agreement on security arrangements regarding the unified command-and-control structure,” stated Mr. Haysom, adding that he hopes such progress in achieving peace targets will be an important step forward in keeping people safe and providing humanitarian aid to those who need it the most.
“With the appointment of a single unified command, we expect to see greater coherence in government response to local conflicts across the country.”
The SRSG also took note of the 12 April Presidential Decree integrating the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-iO) and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) into the blueprint of a unified army as well as police, security, prisons and civil defence services.
Moving on to the Security Council’s recent decision to renew the UN Peacekeeping mission’s mandate in South Sudan until March 2023, SRSG Haysom highlighted a significant addition to UNMISS’ ongoing peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding efforts – electoral support.
“Upon the invitation from the Government, the Mission stands ready to support the South Sudanese in elections and in building their political institutions. The holding and timing of elections, of course, remain a sovereign decision for the people and leaders of South Sudan,” he stated.
Relatedly, Mr. Haysom listed vital areas that must be addressed for all outstanding elements of the Peace Agreement to be implemented.
“Now that the parties have reached agreement on the unified command structure, the way is open for a surge on other critical tasks, which includes transitional justice; undertaking financial, legal and judicial reforms; and the constitution making process which is fundamental to building a new social contract to underpin national unity,” he averred.
For its part, according to the SRSG, UNMISS will continue providing necessary technical support and work with local organisations to encourage public understanding on an inclusive constitution making process.
Furthermore, with merely 10 months of the transitional period remaining, SRSG Haysom reiterated the urgent need for all parties, including non-signatories, to come together and fully action the Revitalized Peace Agreement, so that the people of South Sudan can heal past wounds and look forward to a peaceful, prosperous future.
“A window of opportunity remains for South Sudan to complete its transition in accordance with the timeline set out in the Peace Agreement, though it is closing. Recent progress gives hope that the Government can accelerate implementation and make maximum use of the time left in the transitional period.”