Implementation of Revitalized Peace Agreement Progressing ‘Slowly but Surely’, Juba’s Permanent Representative Assures Members
Meeting to discuss the evolving situation in South Sudan against the backdrop of International Women’s Day, The Security Council heard today that sexual violence against women and girls persists in spite of the young nation’s recent political strides.
David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), briefed the 15-member Council on the considerable progress achieved since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in September 2018. Commending the efforts of regional partners in brokering the Agreement, he said opposition leaders are now moving freely around Juba, the capital, and engaging in the peace process. Meanwhile, refugees are beginning to return home and there have been rapprochements between Government officials and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO).
Many people are alive today who might not have been without the [peace] Agreement, he emphasized. Nevertheless, significant challenges remain, including delays in implementing the timetable set out in the Revitalized Agreement and the lack of a resolution on boundary issues. Warning that a peace that falters will generate frustration, anger and a possible return to violence, he stressed that sexual violence must end if displaced people are to feel safe enough to return home. The Government must work to end impunity, he reiterated, noting that UNMISS is helping to build the justice system’s capacity to deal with such crimes. A United Nations-supported court will open this month, with jurisdiction over crimes of a sexual or gender-based nature, he said.
Angelina Nyajima Simon Jial, Founder of the non-governmental organization Hope Restoration South Sudan, also briefed the Council, dedicating her remarks to women around the world who continue to fight for their rights. Describing the mass rape perpetrated near the town of Bentiu in late 2018 as a symptom of a much deeper problem, she said women and girls in South Sudan suffer some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence. Whereas groups like Hope Restoration South Sudan work to provide protection and life-saving services, their lack of resources makes operations difficult, she said, pointing out that the bulk of available resources goes to United Nations agencies and international organizations, with the smallest portion funding national groups.
We cannot build a strong and vibrant civil society in South Sudan with these constraints, she stressed, warning that the country’s hopes for peace will fade without the participation of local groups. Much funding previously allocated has dried up, she noted, asking: How do you tell someone who has been subjected to horrific acts of violence that you can no longer help? While it is encouraging that the United Nations 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan prioritizes such programming, the Security Council must include local non-governmental organizations in the UNMISS mandate and request that donors support them, she said.
As Council members took the floor, many welcomed recent strides by the parties concerned and commended them for putting South Sudan’s broader interests above their own. However, several speakers sounded the alarm over high levels of sexual and gender-based violence � including the use of rape as a weapon of war � and called for intensified political commitment to address such heinous crimes.
CAte d’Ivoire’s delegate expressed concern over significant delays in achieving the goals for South Sudan’s pre-transition phase. The parties must come to grips with the substantive issues, notably by inserting provisions in the transitional constitution, establishing the Independent Transitional Boundary Commission and putting transitional security arrangements in place. Noting that security sector reform should allow for the unification of belligerents and creation of a disciplined army, he said transitional justice bodies should also be established � notably a hybrid court � and echoed the Secretary-General’s call to strengthen the UNMISS mandate and render it more flexible.
The representative of the United States said that today’s observance of International Women’s Day is a reminder that we must do everything possible for the millions of women still facing staggering levels of violence in South Sudan. While welcoming the fact that the Revitalized Agreement seems to be holding, he noted the failure of previous accords and called upon the Government to demonstrate its full commitment. The United States provided $845 million in assistance to South Sudan in 2018, he recalled, cautioning that such aid is not infinite and will require the Government to take responsibility for its people.
Emphasizing the need to avoid past mistakes, the Russian Federation’s representative commended the important role played by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in helping to reach the Revitalized Agreement. He went on to state that his delegation does not share the Western opinion that sanctions pressure and the imposition of the arms embargo made the peace process possible. The Council should not take credit for the success of regional mediators, he stressed, describing the Agreement as a demonstration of the principle of African solutions to African problems.
South Sudan’s delegate said that his country’s security, peace and economic situation has improved noticeably since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement. Implementation is progressing slowly but surely, he added, noting that President Salva Kiir Mayardit is touring the Greater Bahr El Ghazal region in the company of opposition leaders. Refugees are now returning voluntarily in large numbers and the economy is in the early stages of recovery, he said, adding that consumer goods are available and prices are dropping in Juba’s markets. Yet, challenges persist, including inadequate funding, he noted. However, the Government will carry on, using whatever means and resources are available, he stressed, urging the Council to work with regional partners to convince outstanding opposition groups to join the peace process.
Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Peru, Belgium, Poland, South Africa, China, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Indonesia and France.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.
DAVID SHEARER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), outlined the considerable developments occurring on the ground in recent months. He noted that the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan � signed on 12 September 2018 and brokered through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), particularly through the commendable efforts of Sudan � continues to hold, demonstrating the trust and confidence built by the parties. Citing four positive changes, he said opposition politicians from various parties are moving freely around the capital, Juba, without hindrance and participating in meetings on the peace process.
More than 71 meetings and rapprochements have been held across the country between Government officials and Sudan Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) forces and politicians, he continued. The enthusiasm for peace among the people is palpable, he said, noting that overall levels of political violence have diminished significantly. Many people are alive today who might not have been without the [peace] Agreement, he emphasized. The exception to that trend, however, is Central Equatoria, where fighting, killings and sexual assaults continue to be reported, he said. People are also expressing a willingness to return home, with an estimated 135,000 refugees � out of some 2.3 million � having returned and many internally displaced people having signalled their wish to do the same.
Turning to continuing challenges, he said the timetable set out in the 12 September 2018 Agreement is well behind where it should be, and many fundamental issues still need to be resolved. They include the resolution of boundary and state issues, as well as the formation of a unified armed force and the constitution-making process. Pointing out that the current pre-transitional Government phase of the peace process will end on 12 May, he stressed that, from that point, the revitalized transitional Government is scheduled to take over and the Vice-Presidents should have taken up their roles. A peace that falters will generate frustration, anger and a possible return to violence, he warned. We cannot allow that to happen. There is no plan B alternative to implementing the Agreement, he said, underlining the critical importance of a fully engaged IGAD, supported by the African Union in partnership with the United Nations.
Reporting on the ongoing suffering in South Sudan, he emphasized that five months of a more stable environment cannot redress food insecurity and other humanitarian challenges overnight. Donor nations provided more than $1 billion in life-saving support in 2018 � twice South Sudan’s State budget � he recalled, noting that the funds enabled humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to 5 million people. The 2019 target is $1.5 billion to reach some 5.7 million people in need, he said, citing the challenges of humanitarian access and governmental delays in some areas. A trust fund has been established to intervene in areas of ongoing conflict, he said, adding that it aims to reconcile differences between warring communities and to bolster agreements by providing economic support and services.
He went on to state that UNMISS is working to support the refugee return process, while humanitarian agencies provide programming in areas including agriculture, education and health. The next three months are critical, he stressed, noting that, after that, the rainy season will make land transport impossible and close the window for planting crops. Emphasizing that sexual violence must end if people are to feel safe enough to return home during that time, he underlined that ending impunity is a core function of the Government and a vital part of the peace and reconciliation process. In that regard, UNMISS is working with the Government to build the capacity of the justice system to deal with such crimes, including by operating a mobile court system that has helped to try and jail several dozen perpetrators, he said. A United Nations-supported court will open in Juba this month, with jurisdiction over crimes of a sexual nature, as well as those entailing gender-based violence, he added.
ANGELINA NYAJIMA SIMON JIAL, Founder, Hope Restoration South Sudan, dedicated her remarks to women around the world who continue to fight for the rights of women and girls, while working daily to restore peace in their communities. Women-led organizations play a crucial role in building peace and security in South Sudan, she said, stressing that the mass rape in Bentiu last November was a symptom of a much deeper problem affecting women and girls in the country, which suffers some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence. It is in that context that women’s organizations work tirelessly to deliver life saving services, she said. They respond to gender-based violence, protect people with special needs and create women-friendly spaces offering psychosocial support and income-generating activities, often in the hardest-to-reach areas, throughout the rainy season and even when fighting surrounds them. And we will still be there when UNMISS has left, she emphasized.
However, a lack of resources makes it difficult to operate amid intense competition for humanitarian resources between international and national non governmental organizations, she noted. The bulk of funding goes to United Nations agencies and international organizations, the smallest portion to national groups. And within national civil society, the smallest portion, by far, of funding goes to women-led organizations. We cannot build a strong and vibrant civil society in South Sudan with these constraints, she stressed, going on to caution: And without us, our community’s hopes for a lasting peace will fade. For example, in September 2018, Hope Restoration South Sudan received a grant from the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund to open a girl-friendly space in Leer, she said, recalling also that she was surprised by the number of women who began, within months, to visit and build relationships with case workers, and more so, to learn that nearly half of them were survivors of gender-based violence, some having suffered multiple rapes.
By early 2019, however, the organization lost its funding, she said, asking: How do you tell someone who has been subjected to horrific acts of violence that you can no longer help? While it is encouraging that the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan has prioritized such programming, the Security Council, for its part, must include local non-governmental organizations in the UNMISS mandate, she said, asserting: We are not there and this needs to change. Calling for urgent recognition that humanitarian needs cannot be met without addressing deep-rooted gender inequality, she insisted that women must be involved in such discussions. They are ready to fill the 35 per cent quota reserved for them in the Agreement, but, to do so, they need the Council’s support, she asserted. Indeed, the women, peace and security agenda is much more than just getting women to the peace table, she added, underlining that it is about women being central players in all aspects of efforts for peace.
To make a difference, women-led organizations need financial support to operate on a more sustainable basis while scaling up their work, she said, adding that they must be able to offer more one-stop centres for medical care, legal services and skills development. Noting the approaching mandate renewal for UNMISS, she urged the Council to make a direct request that international donors work with local non-governmental organizations, stressing that the Mission and international non-governmental organizations must support their efforts to take on a much greater share of the humanitarian work. This kind of partnerships between local non-governmental organizations, donors, UNMISS and the international humanitarian community has been a critical missing piece in South Sudan � a partnership that will work better with a clear understanding of the challenges facing women and girls, she said. She concluded by calling for engagement with local communities, emphasizing that they must be consulted and heard. When they raise concerns about mounting tensions, they speak from an informed position of local knowledge, she pointed out. There is a wealth of untapped potential, she said, adding that, in order to unlock it, better ways of working together must be found.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said that today’s observance of International Women’s Day reminds the international community that we must do everything possible for the millions of women who still face staggering levels of violence in South Sudan. Welcoming the fact that Peace Agreement seems to be holding, he nevertheless expressed concern over the lack of political will among the parties to fully implement the Agreement, continuing violence in and around Yei, and the ongoing recruitment of children. Recalling that previous peace agreements have failed, he called upon the Government to demonstrate its commitment, including by ensuring transparency in the use of oil revenues to support the population. Among other things, he also called for an end to obstruction of the work of ceasefire monitors, the removal of impromptu road barriers, an end to inappropriate taxes and fees imposed on aid workers, and intensified efforts to open a hybrid court. He went on to recall that the United States provided $845 million to South Sudan in 2018, but warned that such assistance is not infinite and will require the Government to take responsibility for its people.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), also spotlighting the commemoration of International Women’s Day, said that his country does much to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women around the world. Welcoming the significant progress made in implementing the various agreements reached in South Sudan, he noted that we are witnessing a significant decrease in the levels of violence, as well as a reduction in violations of human rights. Meanwhile, more and more refugees are willing to return home and opposition party members are moving about freely. Echoing appeals for the parties to formally finalize their arrangements on security issues and introduce amendments to the Constitution, he emphasized that mistakes made in the past must now be avoided. He went on to commend IGAD’s important role in helping to reach the Peace Agreement, emphasizing that his delegation does not share the opinion of Western colleagues that the peace process was made possible by sanctions pressure and the imposition of the arms embargo. The Council should not take credit for the success of regional mediators, he stressed, describing the Agreement as a demonstration of the principle of African solutions to African problems. He also expressed support for the mandate extension for UNMISS.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) noted that the peace process is at a crossroads as the 12 May deadline for forming a transitional Government approaches. Key questions about security arrangements remain open, he said, citing the establishment of security services, as well as the number and boundaries of states. Parties to the Revitalized Agreement must step up efforts on this front and make the whole process more inclusive, he emphasized, expressing concern about continued fighting, particularly in the Equatorias, and the country’s human rights situation, including gender-based violence. Together with the United Kingdom and Peru, the Government of Germany convened the first ever meeting of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security for South Sudan last week, he said. Outlining some of the Group’s recommendations, he said they include increased participation of women in the committees and mechanisms of the revitalized peace process. He went on to express his delegation’s support for extending the mandate of UNMISS, stressing that the Mission remains indispensable in supporting South Sudan and its people.
JESSICA PHILIPS (United Kingdom) noted that five years of fighting claimed nearly 400,000 lives, with women and girls often experiencing rape and sexual assault, yet, time and again, perpetrators are not held to account. Despite the signing of the Peace Agreement and the reduction in political violence, there has been an uptick in communal and sexual violence, she said, adding that of particular concern are reports warning of the normalization and persistence of sexual violence, perpetrated at times by armed militia groups, sometimes encouraged by commanders. Despite calls to identify those responsible, this has not happened, she said, pointing out that, instead, organizations providing support to victims have come under attack by the Government. We cannot accept these brutal acts, nor allow impunity, she emphasized. Calling for an end to sexual violence and the culture of impunity, she pressed the Government to protect civilians, investigate all instances of sexual violence and bring those responsible to justice. Support must be extended to organizations helping survivors, she stressed. Recalling the United Kingdom’s consistent calls for greater inclusion of women in peace processes, she urged the parties to deliver on promises to meet the 35 per cent quota. She went on to express concern that space for civil society continues to shrink and pressed all actors to engage civil society. Noting that the Secretary-General’s report is the last before the May transition date, she expressed concern over the lack of progress on some of the most difficult issues, pinpointing fighting as the cause of the man-made humanitarian and protection crisis in South Sudan. She urged all parties to ensure full implementation of the Agreement.
JOSA� SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said that, since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement, the number of victims of political violence has fallen and the free movement of opposition politicians in Juba is clear. Yet, such modest progress is fragile, amid persistent threats against civilians and ongoing sexual and intercommunal violence, he said. Humanitarian personnel must be able to move freely throughout the territories, with South Sudan fulfilling its commitments in the Revitalized Agreement, he stressed, adding that the signatories must resolve their differences, while regional and international actors maintain support for the process. He went on to express concern about the vulnerable situation of civilians amid reports of rape and other violations, including kidnappings. It is alarming that such cases are not investigated, prosecuted or punished, he said, pressing both the Government and the parties to bring perpetrators to account. He praised the South Sudan People’s Defence Force plan to launch its own action plan next week, and the Government for ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Underlining the need to establish the hybrid court and other transitional justice mechanisms, as well as services for survivors of sexual violence, she pointed out that the Joint Transitional Security Committee does not have a single woman in its ranks.
VERA�NIKA BUSTAMANTE (Peru) welcomed the continuing enforcement of the Revitalized Agreement and the deduction of political violence, noting, however, that progress is needed on substantive issues. Recalling the Secretary-General’s appeal for the parties to establish transitional security arrangements and form a national unity Government, she said those goals should be prioritized as none has been achieved. Furthermore, the establishment of the Independent Boundaries Commission, approval of a draft law on constitutional reform and the adoption of a governance system must be carried out, she said. Expressing regret that intercommunal violence continues to affect civilians, she said the 1.87 million internally displaced persons and 2.27 million refugees in neighbouring countries shed light on the grave humanitarian situation. Condemning sexual violence against women and girls, she urged the Government and other relevant parties to punish perpetrators, emphasizing that the recent sexual violence in Bentiu offers proof that transitional security arrangements must be implemented as soon as possible. She went on to say that UNMISS should have a close relationship with women-led organizations, adding that the United Nations and IGAD must monitor compliance with the Agreement, especially regarding the 35 per cent quota for women’s participation in decision-making.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) noted that the political landscape in South Sudan has undergone a significant change in recent years, with broad-scale progress being made on reducing political violence. Nevertheless, there are persistent to implementing the Agreement and the parties must agree on a future vision for the security sector in order to avoid a fresh round of violence. This Agreement is a window of opportunity to achieve a lasting peace in the country, she said, expressing concern over the serious humanitarian crisis continuing to linger in South Sudan, and rising intercommunal violence in some areas. Women and girls are not yet reaping the dividends of peace, she added, noting that instead, sexual violence has actually risen since 2018. No lasting solution can be reached without urgently countering such crimes, which affect not only women and girls, but also men and boys, she pointed out. As for displaced people, she emphasized that conditions must be truly favourable for people to be able to return to their homes. They must be properly informed and enjoy full security, she added. In that regard, she laid out several functions that UNMISS can take up, including the protection of civilian sites so as to enhance their safety and security.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), while describing the signing of the Revitalized Agreement as a significant milestone towards peace, nevertheless expressed concern that several of its fundamental provisions � including on establishing transitional security arrangements and the conclusion of the Independent Boundaries Commission’s work � are yet to be implemented, and the timelines set by the Agreement are being missed. Welcoming the fact that the permanent ceasefire has largely been respected across the country, she nevertheless expressed grave concern about increased levels of intercommunal violence, persisting tensions, as well as sexual violence against women and girls. We are appalled by the heinous attacks in and around Benitu, she said, condemning the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the strongest possible terms. Stressing the need to end such violence, she called for accountability and joined appeals that the Government spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Since there can be no durable peace without inclusiveness, women and young people must be fully represented in the peace process, she emphasized, noting also that regional engagement will remain crucial.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) urged the Government and other parties to do everything in their power to complete the establishment of the mechanisms and committees prescribed by the Agreement, adding that the return of former Vice President Riek Machar is crucial to the accord’s implementation. For its part, South Africa will continue to support the peace process through mediation efforts by President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Chair of the African Union’s High-level Ad Hoc Committee on South Sudan, and by Deputy President David Mabuza, in his capacity as Special Envoy to South Sudan. However, South Africa remains concerned about the slow progress and insufficient resources to ensure the Agreement is implemented, he said, adding that his delegation supports the renewal of the UNMISS mandate.
WU HAITAO (China) noted that work on the priorities outlined in the Revitalized Agreement is lagging behind, adding that the Council should offer more assistance by pushing the parties to implement the accord. The parties bear primary responsibility for implementing it, he emphasized, urging the international community to provide funding and technical support, while respecting South Sudan’s leadership role. Efforts should be made to support the African Union, IGAD and regional countries by pushing the parties to reach consensus on the implementation of political and security arrangements, as outlined in the Agreement, he added. Emphasizing the need to provide humanitarian and economic support, he reiterated China’s support for renewing the UNMISS mandate, notably its focus on helping the parties implement the Revitalized Agreement.
GBOLIA� DESIRA� WULFRAN IPO (CAte d’Ivoire) expressed concern over significant delays in attaining the goals for the pre-transition phase, emphasizing that the parties must come to grips with the substantive issues, notably by inserting provisions into the transitional constitution, establishing the Independent Transitional Boundary Commission and putting transitional security arrangements in place. He went on to praise the South Sudan United Front’s desire to participate in the peace process and encouraged the Government to respond favourably. Security sector reform should allow for the unification of belligerents and the creation of a disciplined army, he said, stressing also the need to establish transitional justice bodies, notably a hybrid court. With the numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees remaining high, the international community should help to create the conditions for their voluntary, safe and dignified return, he said, reiterating his delegation’s support for the creation of a United Nations force to help overcome the crisis in South Sudan. He echoed the Secretary-General’s call to both strengthen the UNMISS mandate and make it more flexible.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said the signing of the revitalized peace agreement was a significant step forward towards South Sudan’s return to peace and stability. The formation of the transitional Government was another important step, he said, calling on the parties to now work for the integration of the national security forces. The time has come to fully implement the peace agreement, both in letter and in spirit. Deploring the persistence of sporadic fighting across South Sudan, as well as continued violence against civilians, he called on the Government to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice. Attacks against UNMISS personnel and humanitarian workers are equally unacceptable. Welcoming the fact that some displaced persons are beginning to return home, he commended the parties for having put the interests of the country ahead of their own narrow priorities. As UNMISS is still critical for stability in the country, he joined other speakers in voicing support for an extension of its mandate.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) welcomed the return of political leaders to Juba, as well as the reunification efforts of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Commending States in the region for their efforts to resolve the situation in South Sudan, he said the return of people to their homes from protection of civilian sites will help to further restore hope. He also echoed expressions of concern over fighting in Equatoria and voiced his delegation’s hope that UNMISS personnel will be granted freedom of movement across the country.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said the Revitalized Agreement is the only option for ensuring lasting peace in South Sudan, and as such, the momentum generated by its signing must not be allowed to slip away. There is much work to be done on transitional security arrangements, incorporation of the Agreement into the Transitional Constitution, and resolving the boundaries and states issue. The need for international humanitarian assistance remains critical. As the peace process advances, there must be commensurate positive developments on the ground. Noting that non-signatory armed groups continue to be a source of insecurity, he expressed concern about clashes involving the National Salvation Front in Equatoria, and voiced support for continued outreach by the IGAD Special Envoy to non-signatories. The renewed UNMISS mandate must include support for implementing the Revitalized Agreement, in cooperation with the Government, he said.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, saying the opportunity presented by South Sudan’s Revitalized Agreement must not be lost. Mutual trust among the parties is increasing, she said, adding that the Agreement’s full implementation is the only way forward. The more the parties wait, the more the process will fizzle out and combatants will become impatient. Echoing calls to urgently agree on security arrangements and border issues, she said States of the region � along with UNMISS � can help support those processes. Pointing out that intercommunal violence continues, as spotlighted recently by the Human Rights Council, she added that the level of sexual violence remains unacceptably high. Mobile courts are a useful initiative that should continue, she said, also calling for the swift establishment of a hybrid court. Meanwhile, she also called for expediting humanitarian assistance, continuing efforts to protect civilians, facilitating refugee returns and using sanctions to deter sexual violence crimes.
AKUIE BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) said the security, peace and economic situation in South Sudan has improved noticeably since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement, with confidence-building measures � a prerequisite for peace � seen in the return of many opposition leaders to Juba. Peace implementation is progressing slowly but surely, he said noting that President Salva Kiir Mayardit is touring the Greater Bahr El Ghazal region in the company of opposition leaders. Touching on other gains, he said the National Dialogue Regional Conferences have started, with the first one concluded in Wau last week. The next one will be held in Greater Upper Nile region in the coming days, with the final conference to be held in the Greater Equatoria region before the end of May, he said. Refugees are returning voluntarily in big numbers and the internally displaced are leaving their camps. The economy is in the early stages of recovery, with consumer goods available and prices dropping in Juba’s markets. Yet, challenges persist, he noted, explaining that peace implementation is moving slowly due to inadequate funding. The Government will carry on, using whatever means and resources are available, he said, urging the Council to work with IGAD and the African Union to convince the few opposition movements which opted out of the Agreement to sign up and join the peace process.
Source: United Nations