Thank you, Mr. President. Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, we thank you for your updates on the situation in South Sudan. Special Representative Patten, if you’re still here, your briefing reminds us why the international community needs to strengthen calls for accountability for horrific atrocities. Thank you very much for the work that you do and for giving a voice to those who cannot always speak for themselves. We greatly welcome your briefing with us here today. Ambassador Wronecka, thank you for your tireless commitment to the work of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee, which now, more than ever, is a key pillar of the Security Council’s commitment to peace in South Sudan.
Mr. President, let me begin by commending this Council for reaching consensus on the December 7 Security Council press statement regarding the horrific sexual and gender-based violence in northern South Sudan.
The United States remains deeply concerned, particularly by the inadequate response from the Government of South Sudan. Although these incidents of coordinated sexual violence occurred weeks ago, the government has neither condemned the attacks nor held anyone accountable.
Mr. President, three months on from the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, the international community and, most importantly, the South Sudanese people have seen some progress on the implementation of pre-transitional arrangements.
As we said last month in this chamber, we welcome the reduction in violent clashes and the formation of some of the pre-transitional committees.
We are pleased to observe some confidence-building measures between the parties, including at the local level. Inclusion of women’s groups, other civil society organizations, and other stakeholders in the implementation is a positive step, and we urge this effort to continue to be even more expansive.
However, the United States is concerned that the parties have shown little progress negotiating a solution on security arrangements. We call on the leaders of South Sudan to commit fully to making these tough decisions, which proved to be a significant obstacle to implementing the previous peace agreement.
Mr. President, in the spirit of implementing the peace agreement, the United States reiterates its call for the release of those that have been arbitrarily detained and the prisoners of war. Many individuals, including Peter Biar Ajak, remain imprisoned without the ability to seek legal review of their detentions. The failure to release all political detainees runs counter to the letter and spirit of the latest peace agreement and of previous agreements.
The United States strongly condemns the bureaucratic and physical impediments imposed by the Government of South Sudan, opposition forces, and others that prevent the UN and humanitarian and development actors from providing life-saving assistance and security to the most vulnerable.
Even one incident restricting the movement of UN personnel by the government is one too many, but 19 incidents, as reported in the Secretary-General’s latest report, is unacceptable. UNMISS must have full and unrestricted movement throughout South Sudan in accordance with the UN’s Status of Forces Agreement with South Sudan.
With nearly two million South Sudanese internally displaced and over six million facing food insecurity, denying access to those working to protect and save lives is unconscionable. Most parts of the country will continue to face severe hunger through January, with famine possible in many conflict-affected areas should insecurity or access denial continue to disrupt the delivery of emergency assistance to people in need.
We call upon the government and opposition groups to provide the UN, ceasefire monitors, humanitarian actors, and development partners free and unhindered access throughout the entirety of South Sudan in order to provide life-saving assistance to all those in need.
South Sudan’s taxation policies are another impediment to humanitarian and development actors. We noted the recent taxation circular published December 5, and we urge the government to institute a waiver from taxes and fees for all international staff of humanitarian and development organizations for the duration of the crisis.
Mr. President, if the recent peace agreement is to have any chance of success, South Sudan’s leaders must be willing to break the cycle of impunity for those responsible for atrocities, as well as any actors who fuel the conflict in South Sudan.
In support of the United States’ commitment to peace and stability in South Sudan, on December 14, the U.S. government sanctioned three individuals. Sanctions were imposed on Israel Ziv and Obac William Olawo for their roles expanding or extending the conflict and on Gregory Vasili for actions that undermined peace, stability, and security in South Sudan.
Mr. President, we commend regional actors for their leadership and commitment to supporting peace in South Sudan. And we are counting on the region to maintain pressure on the parties to implement the peace agreement and to uphold the UN arms embargo to prevent the flow of weapons into South Sudan, which would further destabilize the country and the region.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States continues to support the people of South Sudan and their aspirations for freedom, peace, and prosperity.
We call on South Sudan’s leaders to make these aspirations a reality by implementing the revitalized peace agreement, ending the cycle of impunity for perpetrators of atrocities, and allowing UNMISS to operate freely in accordance with its mandate.
Thank you, Mr. President.