Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on South Sudan

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 15, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Haysom for your, as always, dedication to South Sudan and, today, for a very timely briefing. Ms. Ghelani, I commend you, as always, for your work in coordinating the humanitarian response in South Sudan. So, thank you for that. Special thanks to Ms. Nanjia for your really helpful and frank remarks, as well as your valuable recommendations to the Council. They were heard, so thank you for that.

Let me begin by saying, the United States reiterates its support for the people of South Sudan, and we reaffirm our strong commitment to support the sovereignty, and the independence, and the territorial integrity of South Sudan.

Over the past two months, the Government of South Sudan has reconstituted the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and sworn-in its members. We certainly welcome this as a step forward in the peace process, but continue to urge South Sudanese leaders to follow through on their commitment and expedite the implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement through the completion of graduation and deployment of unified security forces, through initiation of a permanent Constitution-making process, the operationalization of the Hybrid Court and other transitional justice mechanisms, and, of course, preparation for free and fair elections.

The United States takes note of the Secretary-General’s July 15 report, presented pursuant to Resolution 2567. That report provided an assessment of security, procedural, and logistical requirements needed to prepare for elections in South Sudan. Pursuing free and fair elections that are inclusive and peaceful and that reflect the will of the South Sudanese people will be critical for a transition towards a stable, democratic, and self-reliant state. However, credible elections that reflect the will of the people must be preceded by an inclusive, transparent constitution-drafting process, carried out in an environment that permits freedom of expression and provides space for political dissent.

Having heard from Ms. Nanjia, we certainly share the Special Representative’s concerns about the government’s continued efforts to limit political opposition, including the recent arrest of local civil society members and the stifling of free speech and freedom of association. The United States is also increasingly concerned at the prolonged violence at the sub-national level throughout South Sudan, often involving large and well-equipped armed groups. Within the past month alone, as we’ve heard, tens of thousands of civilians in the town of Tambura in Western Equatoria were afflicted with violence between rival militias. That deteriorating security situation in Tambura has led to more than 40,000 internally displaced persons, disrupted humanitarian assistance for approximately 25,000 beneficiaries, and resulted in at least 26 deaths, the majority of whom were women and children.

Meanwhile violence continues in other parts of Central Equatoria. On August 22, hundreds of unidentified men attacked Nyori Refugee Camp in Yei River County, during which an NGO-run health facility was looted and vandalized, there were reports of health workers assaulted and harassed, and, tragically, multiple women raped. Countless South Sudanese have lost their lives in attacks, and, as Ms. Nanjia mentioned, that includes two Catholic nuns killed by gunmen on August 16.

The safety and wellbeing of children is also a deep concern as the conflict in Tambura could lead to an increase of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, particularly against girls. Also, forced recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups and the denial of humanitarian access to children in need.

We deplore the pervasive violence plaguing parts of Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, and elsewhere in South Sudan, and the United States calls on South Sudanese leaders to take immediate and effective measures to protect civilians, humanitarian workers, internally displaced persons, and women and children. And we also urge the government to hold accountable those responsible for abuse against civilians.

As we’ve just heard from Ms. Ghelani, the humanitarian assistance situation remains desolate. More than $1 million-worth of humanitarian supplies badly needed by the South Sudanese people have been looted or burned. The continuous looting, threats, violent attacks against humanitarian actors has led to the suspension of operations by numerous humanitarian agencies and a reduction of lifesaving assistance to vulnerable citizens. We note those attacking humanitarian personnel may be subject to sanction measures.

Mr. President, let me end by saying the United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan and to working closely with the transitional government, our fellow members of the Council, and all stakeholders to enable peace and prosperity for South Sudan and the region.

Thank you.