Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in South Sudan

Michael Barkin
Senior Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 4, 2020


Thank you, Special Representative Shearer, for your dedication to South Sudan and for your timely briefing. Ms. Sunday, your continued advocacy for an inclusive peace process in South Sudan is commendable. Thank you for your remarks on behalf of women and civil society in South Sudan.

Mr. President, the United States welcomes the decision by the government and opposition to form a new transitional unity government. We recognize the significant compromises agreed to by all parties in order to take this important step forward in the peace process. We also commend the efforts of IGAD, countries in the region, and other stakeholders for their direct and ongoing engagement with South Sudan’s leaders in advance of the February deadline. We are hopeful that the people of South Sudan can now see a glimmer of hope and progress. For this progress to be sustained, however, South Sudan’s leaders must view recent developments as an important first step on the long path to lasting peace. The hard work of compromise and collaboration must continue.

Mr. President, the international community must continue its engagement to encourage progress in areas that address the underlying causes of the conflict. Now is a particularly sensitive time for implementation of security arrangements. The proximity of government and opposition forces during the cantonment and training process creates a high risk of conflict. South Sudan’s leaders must continue to reinforce the sanctity of the permanent ceasefire and be prepared to defuse tensions in the case of friction between forces. We also urge South Sudan’s leaders to take measures to stop persistent inter-communal violence, such as recent clashes in Jonglei state.

Humanitarian assistance remains a crucial lifeline for more than half of South Sudan’s population. Access for humanitarians to the most vulnerable populations must continue to improve, especially in the context of increasing food insecurity. We call on the new government to remove bureaucratic impediments that prevent timely delivery of much-needed assistance. Transparent and accountable management of resources and the transitional government’s continued financial support for the peace process have never been more important. To consolidate the gains of peace, South Sudan’s people need to see the country’s resources being used to provide services that can support sustainable development.

Mr. President, as this Council heard during its trip to Juba last October, there can be no peace in South Sudan without justice. South Sudan’s leaders must now work together to address issues of transitional justice and accountability, including establishing the African Union Hybrid Court for South Sudan. The February report from the Commissioner of Human Rights documented alarming violations of human rights, including the use of starvation as a tool of war, and ongoing conflict-related sexual violence committed by forces on all sides. We expect the new government to take these findings seriously. We particularly condemn the abduction of women and girls by commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition in Western Equatoria. We are also concerned by reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by personnel from the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces and the National Salvation Front in Central Equatoria. With the new government formation, we expect safeguards to stop these abuses and to ensure accountability. One of the distinctions between the current peace process and the previous failed attempts at peace in South Sudan is some improvement in the inclusivity of civil society, women, youth, and faith groups, among others. We encourage continued progress to include South Sudan’s diverse communities in the process of implementing the peace agreement.

Mr. President, UNMISS is playing a vital role to support stability in South Sudan. This Council is aware that the formation of the previous transitional government triggered years of violence and human rights atrocities. For this reason, regarding the upcoming mandate renewal for UNMISS, we seek to ensure the mission maintains the necessary tools to support the peace process, and to also respond to outbreaks of violence. For UNMISS to do its part to support the peace process, it must be able to conduct its work without restrictions and violations of its Status of Forces Agreement. We urge the new government to support UNMISS to fulfill its mandate and leverage the UN presence to consolidate peace in South Sudan.

Mr. President, South Sudan’s leaders have made important political progress. We fully recognize their efforts. We also recognize maintaining momentum in the peace process means continuing to demonstrate a willingness to compromise and collaborate on the challenging issues I have discussed. Progress on these issues is precisely what will allow the people of South Sudan to yield tangible benefits from the recent encouraging developments. The United States continues to stand with the people of South Sudan in their pursuit of peace, stability, and prosperity.

Thank you, Mr. President.