8431st Security Council Meeting: Reports of Secretary-General on South Sudan

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18-Dec-2018 02:11:41
‘Window for peace’ finally open, but fragile in South Sudan will continue to need international support, peacekeeping chief tells Security Council at 8431st meeting.

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A window for peace has finally opened in South Sudan, with more political progress made in the last four months than over the last four years, the head of United Nations peacekeeping said today, telling the Security Council that the fragile situation in the country will continue to require international support.

Jean-Pierre LaCroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the 15-member Council on the situation in South Sudan following the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in September. Since then, the country’s general security situation has improved significantly and the number of incidents involving the signatory parties has declined.

Among other factors, parties long in opposition to each other have agreed to work together to ensure unhindered movement for civilians, he said, adding that local authorities are allowing opposition fighters to return home, and opposition parties formerly suspicious of the national dialogue process have begun to indicate a possible willingness to engage.

However, he cautioned that sporadic clashes and continuing attacks against civilians reveal that the situation on the ground remains fragile. Citing a week-long spate of rape and sexual assault cases near the town of Bentiu, he added that the overall humanitarian situation is also of grave concern. Outlining priority benchmarks to be achieved before May 2019 – when South Sudan will formally enter a political transition phase – he urged the parties to reach a comprehensive agreement on the security sector, establish transitional security arrangements and appoint a new chair of the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Committee, tasked with shepherding negotiations and preparing for the transition.

In a second briefing, Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, expanded on the harrowing reports of the Bentiu mass rape in November. The brutal attacks occurred as the female victims were on their way to a food distribution site, she said, describing the events – which sent shock waves around the world – as part of a systemic pattern of sexual violence that escalated dramatically in 2018. Emphasizing that severe violence could result in deep physical, psychological and social scars, she called upon the international community to use all the compliance tools at its disposal to signal “zero tolerance” for such crimes.

Meanwhile, Joanna Wronecka (Poland) – speaking in her capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan – outlined that body’s recent efforts to ensure compliance with the sanctions imposed on South Juba. Reporting on her June visit to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, she underlined her intention to further clarify to South Sudan’s leadership that the sanctions regime is in place to support the political process.

As delegates took the floor, several speakers took issue with those sanctions, with Ethiopia’s representative recalling that the Council failed to heed African opposition to the timing of their imposition. Emphasizing that the progress made so far would not have been possible without strong unity of purpose among regional partners, he stated: “It is unfortunate that the same cannot be said of the Security Council.” The organ failed to pronounce itself on the Revitalized Peace Agreement, but now ironically demands its implementation and asks the region to do more. “It is not too late for the Council to come on board and be a constructive partner,” he said, noting that recent developments require that all stakeholders redouble their efforts to ensure the Agreement’s implementation.

The United Kingdom’s representative described the drop in South Sudan’s overall violence in 2018 as a sign that the Revitalized Peace Agreement is beginning to make life better for the country’s people. However, continued attacks on civilians and the parties’ slow progress in implementing some elements of the Agreement remain concerning, he said. Calling for unity among Council members to maintain the current momentum, he declared: “We must not divert our attention from South Sudan.”

However, the Russian Federation’s delegate was among speakers underscoring the importance of regional leadership and the need for African solutions to resolve African problems. The signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement demonstrated the readiness of the parties to compromise and engage in negotiations, he said, welcoming the recent drop in violence and human rights violations, while urging Council members “not to repeat the mistakes of the past” as they continue to support South Sudan’s peace process.

South Sudan’s representative, meanwhile, said that although implementation of the Agreement is behind schedule, “it is not because the parties are not committed to what they have signed”. In fact, the delays are due to technical challenges requiring greater international political will, he said. In the meantime, the Government of South Sudan takes recent reports of sexual attacks seriously and has dispatched an investigative team to Bentiu. Led by the Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare, it will soon make public its findings after its visit.

Also speaking were representatives of France, Kazakhstan, Peru, Poland, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, United States, Netherlands, Kuwait, China, Sweden and Côte d’Ivoire.

The meeting began at 3:11 p.m. and ended at 5:23 p.m.

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