Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, Commissioner Chergui, Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka, for sharing impressions from your October visit to South Sudan and for your perspectives on recent developments in the country.
Mr. President, the United States appreciates the continued collaboration between the UN and the AU on South Sudan, particularly the emphasis on the role of women in the ongoing peace process. We’ve consistently seen the marginalization of women in South Sudan in previous peace processes. It’s time for the voices of women to be heard and for their contributions to be genuinely taken into account.
Regarding recent developments in South Sudan, the United States, the international community, and, most importantly, the South Sudanese people have started to hear encouraging rhetoric from South Sudan’s leaders on some topics.
Mr. President, we’ve heard about a new era of peace and prosperity, an admission of responsibility for actions that spurred horrific violence, and a promise of forgiveness across party lines. We have heard leaders commit to reconciliation and healing and pledge to include all parties all in the political process, particularly civil society and women.
We have also noted some progress on the deliverables of the peace agreement. The National Pre-Transitional Committee is now established. Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements workshops have been held, with the promise of more to follow. Some political prisoners and prisoners of war have been released.
While we acknowledge these initial steps, we can’t ignore the clear evidence from the ground that runs counter to the lofty rhetoric of South Sudan’s leaders.
Violent conflict continues in parts of the country, and government and opposition groups continue to perpetrate atrocities against civilians. Individuals or entities who conduct these attacks against civilians – or who take any action that extends or expands conflict – should be targeted with sanctions.
Many political prisoners remain in custody with no prospect of a free or fair trial or any hope of release, including Peter Biar Ajak, who was arbitrarily detained at the Juba airport in late July 2018. We also remain deeply concerned that journalists and civil society organizations face ongoing intimidation and censure. Humanitarian workers continue to be blocked both physically and bureaucratically from delivering life-saving assistance, through taxes and fees, expulsion, detainment, and even physical harm.
Mr. President, peace in South Sudan is possible only if its political leaders match their actions to their rhetoric and make the necessary commitments to follow through on their own agreements.
A key component of implementing the peace agreement is the provision of security in Juba and creating the conditions to establish the new government. Security arrangements must be made in the open and in coordination with the Security Council Sanctions Committee on South Sudan.
We commend regional actors, particularly Sudan and Uganda, for their leadership and commitment in supporting peace in South Sudan. We are counting on them to uphold the arms embargo that is preventing the flow of weapons into South Sudan, which would destabilize the country and the region.
We note IGAD’s ongoing assessment of the feasibility of regional support to enhanced security in Juba.
Mr. President, we underscore that any decision to reconfigure the UN Mission in South Sudan is the prerogative of the UN Security Council and must not impact the impartiality of the Mission or its current mandated tasks that are vital to the well-being and safety of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese.
While the peace celebration held in Juba on October 31 delivered to the world images of enthusiasm and joy for the prospect of peace in South Sudan, what remains first and foremost in our minds is the reality of the conflict-induced suffering of the South Sudanese people.
The United States continues to support the people of South Sudan and their aspirations for freedom, peace, and prosperity.
In doing so, we continue to call on the leaders of South Sudan to stop the violence, match rhetoric with tangible actions, and move swiftly to implement past agreements and to build on a fragile peace.