Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on South Sudan

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 8, 2019


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you Special Representative Shearer and Ms. Jial for your briefings about the latest developments on the ground in South Sudan.

Today, International Women’s Day, reminds us of a key reason that our conversation on UNMISS and South Sudan is so important. We must do everything possible to promote a better future for the millions of women in South Sudan who face staggering and unrelenting levels of sexual violence.

Madam President, five months into the revitalized peace agreement, the United States remains watchful of the parties’ implementation and their commitment to finally put an end to the horrific violence and instability that have plagued South Sudan for far too long.

On the one hand, we’re encouraged by reports that the ceasefire appears to be holding in most parts of South Sudan. At the local level, formerly warring military commanders have engaged with one another in peace celebrations.

We’re similarly encouraged to see a rapprochement between the government and opposition parties in communities throughout South Sudan, including a variety of confidence building measures that have sparked increased economic activity.

On the other hand, the United States is deeply concerned by the apparent lack of political commitment from all parties at the national level to fully implement all tenets of the agreement.

The assault, detention, and abuse of a ceasefire monitoring and verification team by government officials in December, is one glaring example that calls into question the government’s commitment to the peace process. Such actions against individuals and institutions working to assist in implementation of the agreement are appalling.

Madam President, we’re also alarmed by continuing violence by all sides in the vicinity of Yei, which has led to mass displacement, killings of civilians, and an urgent need for humanitarian assistance. The violence represents a flagrant breach of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the revitalized peace agreement. These military actions must stop now.

The United States is disturbed by reports that the Government of South Sudan continues to unlawfully recruit young people for military service. This, too, must stop.

Having seen previous peace agreements in South Sudan fail to hold and the country fall back into conflict and instability, the United States, the rest of this Council, and the South Sudanese people, all expect South Sudan’s leaders to demonstrate a clear commitment to the implementation of the agreement in words and in action.

One fundamental, yet powerful, step the government should take is to use its own resources to support peace, rather than war and corruption. The government should make use of its increased oil revenues in a transparent manner to support the agreement’s implementation and provide services to South Sudan’s people, many of whom are on the brink of famine yet again. Absent such transparency, South Sudan’s leaders cannot expect the international community to provide substantial financial support to implement the peace agreement.

But commitment to the agreement is not solely a matter of money. There are clear and immediate steps that the government and opposition parties can take to underscore their commitment to the South Sudanese people and the Agreement. These steps include: full adherence to the ceasefire; taking action against gender-based violence; ceasing the obstruction of ceasefire monitors; permitting unhindered humanitarian access and ending the inappropriate taxes and fees imposed on aid workers; releasing all political prisoners; establishing the AU Hybrid Court; and opening up political space for peaceful dissent.

Madam President, as South Sudan saw during the 2016 outbreak of violence, a peaceful and secure Juba is paramount for any peace agreement to hold. To that end, the government must allow UNMISS to fulfill its mandate to provide a secure environment in and around Juba and other parts of South Sudan. The frequent violations of the Status of Forces Agreement by the government through unreasonable clearance processes and impromptu road barricades cannot continue. The United States calls on the government to allow UNMISS to undertake its roles and responsibilities in support of stability in Juba.

Madam President, there is no bigger supporter of the people of South Sudan than the United States. We want to see this peace process lead to long-term stability and security in the country. In 2018, the U.S. provided 845 million dollars for South Sudan, the vast majority of which has supported the most vulnerable South Sudanese who have borne the terrible brunt of this conflict. We’ve contributed more than 3.7 billion dollars to South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011.

But, as the United States announced last year, our assistance is not infinite.

Our expected return on current and any future assistance is that the government and opposition parties will take primary responsibility for the implementation of the peace agreement in South Sudan and for the well-being of its people. This will help restore the confidence of the South Sudanese people and the international community in the future of South Sudan.

Thank you for your attention.