Thank you, Madam President.
What would you say if you were sitting across the table from a rape survivor in a Protection of Civilians Site? What would you say to the countless women who had to witness their own husbands and children being shot right in front of them? What would you say to the two brothers who had been forced to watch as those fighters gang raped their mother and then forced to actually take turns shooting at their mother until she was dead? These are not hypotheticals. These are the stories of real people that I saw and heard when I visited South Sudan. This is their sad reality because the leaders of South Sudan have failed to protect them.
These stories are not exceptional. These kinds of horrific abuses happen all too frequently in South Sudan. Armed groups, including government forces, are assaulting, robbing, and slaughtering civilians almost every single day. Four million people have been displaced by fighting. Another 2.5 million people have become refugees. And the fighting is getting worse.
Multiple UN Special Representatives described in a statement what has happened in recent weeks: “Testimonies indicate that women and girls of all ages have been subjected to rape, including pregnant women, lactating mothers, and girls as young as four years old.” Four years old.
In another case, young soldiers attacked the island of Meer in the former Unity state. Women, children, and the elderly were slaughtered. Other civilians drowned while trying to flee, including children.
So again, I would ask: what would each of us say to these people?
We should be telling them that we will do everything possible to help protect them and stop their suffering. We should be explaining to the people of South Sudan that the Security Council will take decisive action to hold their leaders accountable for these atrocities. We should be putting real pressure on them to end the fighting.
The Security Council has not imposed an arms embargo, even though the need is obvious. The Security Council has not sanctioned a single individual since 2015, even as the violence associated with the renewed civil war has killed thousands of people.
The South Sudanese government actually promoted one of the handful of individuals the Council previously sanctioned, to Chief of Defense Forces. This is not just an insult to the Council – this is a farce.
The United States has lost its patience. The status quo is unacceptable. It is long past time for all of us to demand better for the South Sudanese people.
I, for one, went to South Sudan with an open mind. I had a genuine conversation with President Kiir, and since then, all we’ve been asked to do is wait. We are told more time is necessary for talks, or more time is necessary before the Council will be able to impose sanctions. But all we see on the ground is more fighting and more atrocities.
Last December, the parties in South Sudan signed the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities. A few days ago, they supposedly recommitted to this agreement with church leaders. So far, these are just words on paper. The parties have violated this agreement from day one. Neither the Intergovernmental Authority on Development nor the African Union have applied consequences for these violators. What we need now is concrete action by the full international community to hold these warring parties accountable.
The resolution before us today is a modest step in this direction. It extends the sanctions regime for 45 days. It demands that the parties fully adhere to the cessation of hostilities. We hope they seize this opportunity for the sake of the South Sudanese people. This is a resolution we should all support.
We urge Council members to use this time to think about the reality of life in South Sudan. I have said often that my fear in South Sudan is that the children are growing up uneducated, unskilled, and resentful. That will be all of our issue when they become adults. These children deserve a brighter future, and in the face of such barbaric violence, the Council’s failure to act denies them of that future. I don’t think any of us could look a survivor of this conflict in the eye and say the right thing to do today was to delay. We must stop making excuses and take real steps to end the conflict instead. I, for one, can’t justify anything else.