Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 25, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President, Special Representative Shearer, Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour, and Ms. Minagano for your briefings.

Though implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement remains slow, the United States acknowledges that the parties continue to respect the ceasefire in most parts of the country. We also note the consensus approach to extending the pre-transition phase.

Nevertheless, the potential for the peace process remains unfulfilled. Gross human rights violations and abuses persist, particularly in the Equatorias. Violent clashes continue to break out across the country. And by the end of July, nearly seven million South Sudanese—more than sixty percent of the population—will face severe levels of acute food insecurity or worse because of a man-made crisis.

With the reduction in violence, humanitarian workers are better able to prepare for and take on the hunger season, as they have increased access to South Sudanese in need. However, there remain ongoing obstacles to the international community’s ability to assist with this effort and to support the peace process overall. The government must adhere to its obligations under the Status of Forces Agreement to allow UNMISS full and unrestricted freedom of movement.

Mr. President, we are also concerned that, while there is increasing stability around the country, the Government continues to restrict key political and civic freedoms. In fact, this seems to have escalated since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement. There can be no real implementation of the Agreement without true respect for the liberties guaranteed in South Sudan’s own constitution.

We stress the need for face-to-face meetings between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, keeping in mind the November 12 date for the establishment of the transitional government. Mr. President, we are deeply disappointed by the verdict in the case of Peter Biar Ajak and five other men, just days after the Government of South Sudan took an important step by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The government must guarantee citizens’ freedom of expression, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and abide by fair trial guarantees.

Mr. President, the flow of weapons into South Sudan is another area of concern. We look forward to a day when peace in South Sudan negates the need for an arms embargo. But in the meantime, we welcome its renewal and call on the international community and the region in particular to uphold the South Sudan sanctions regime and help make peace more profitable than war in South Sudan.

The Revitalized Agreement is central to this shift from war to peace. As a first step, the signatories will have to move beyond quarrels over procedure and instead use the remaining time during the extension period to make real progress.

This means first coming to an agreement on security arrangements, including protection for opposition members of the Transitional Government. It means ensuring the work of the Independent Boundaries Commission does not become a flashpoint for more violence. It means allowing UNMISS to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians.

It also means the Government of South Sudan’s delivering on its $100 million pledge to expedite the implementation of pre-transition tasks in a timely and transparent fashion. It means implementing the transitional justice provisions of the agreement, including engaging with the African Union to establish the Hybrid Court. And, it means the opposition’s pressing ahead with overdue tasks, such as moving its forces into cantonment and proceeding with combined training.

Mr. President, the United States calls on South Sudanese parties who did not sign the agreement to renounce violence, adhere to cessation of hostilities agreements, and seek political resolution to concerns about the peace agreement. We also call on the signatories to engage with such parties in a non-violent and constructive manner.

The efforts described are not simple, but there is evidence, particularly at the local level, that the parties can compromise and accomplish important results when they choose to work together. The alternative—a return to conflict and the loss of more South Sudanese lives—is intolerable. The South Sudanese people have already paid a devastating price for the war their leaders imposed on them.

We are convinced continued engagement of the region is key to building sustainable peace. We appeal to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to stay engaged and to appoint a permanent chair to the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission. We call on the region and the signatories to ensure the crisis in Sudan does not impede the South Sudanese peace process. And we call on neighboring countries to crack down on the illicit flow of finance from South Sudan into their banking systems and real estate markets.

Mr. President, we urge all parties to follow the positive examples of collaboration at the local level to fulfill South Sudan’s potential and bring lasting peace and security to the people of South Sudan.

I thank you.