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

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 20, 2022


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you SRSG Haysom, Ms. Mudawi for your comprehensive briefings today. SRSG Haysom, thank you for raising the possibility of a Council visit to Juba, which my delegation will consider. But in the meantime, we look forward to the sanctions panel visiting Juba by the end of the year. Thank you, Ms. Mudawi, for your messages to the Council which we will give great consideration to. And I want to thank and appreciate in particular, Ms. Merekaje for sharing her insights and her very important recommendations with this Council. Thank you.

The United States finds itself once again deeply disturbed to hear about another incident of brutal violence impacting civilians in South Sudan, including women and children. We are particularly appalled by the horrific crimes in Leer County, Unity state, where – as we heard – earlier this year, armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties reportedly under orders from County Commissioner Koang Biel and Mayendit County Commissioner Gatluak Nyang killed 72 civilians, raped over 60 women and girls, and assaulted humanitarian workers.

We learned from the UNMISS press statement on April 25 that some civilians were burned alive, while others – including a child – were beheaded. Two survivors of sexual violence recounted being raped and gang-raped repeatedly.

Horrifically, these incidents of gender-based violence are all too common – and continue to increase in South Sudan with impunity. According to recent UNMISS reports, the incidence of conflict-related sexual violence in the first quarter of this year increased – increased by 125 percent compared to the same timeframe last year.

My delegation wants to be clear: those involved in planning, directing, or committing any acts involving sexual and gender-based violence can be subject to UN sanctions. The two permanent Member States – China and Russia – that routinely block sanctions nominations, place unwarranted holds or blocks on reappointments of sanctions experts, and generally seek to weaken the Council’s ability to effectively wield the sanctions tool should be mindful of the human costs of their actions.

In keeping with international law, we join others in calling on the South Sudanese officials in government to hold to account all those responsible for committing violations and abuses in Unity state, and we stress that it is the primary responsibility of the Government of South Sudan to ensure the protection of its civilians, including women and children.

We know peacekeepers have a critical role to play here as well, and we commend SRSG Haysom and UNMISS for the rapid deployment of peacekeepers. Their swift engagement at the local, state, and national level to restore calm in Unity has saved lives.

But as the SRSG reminds us, no lasting and just peace will be possible without political progress. In that vein, the United States shares the Secretary-General’s concern regarding the slow implementation and completion of critical elements of the Revitalized Agreement before the end of the transitional period in February 2023. And we call on the Government of South Sudan to fully implement the Revitalized Agreement, including finalizing security arrangements, completing an inclusive constitution drafting process, establishing and resourcing transitional institutions, and ensuring as we heard from our civil society speaker, a free and open civic space for elections.

A we also just heard, South Sudan is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in its history and 8.9 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The United States provides about $1 billion every year to support life-saving humanitarian assistance to the South Sudanese people. We join others in urging the international community to continue providing support to the people of South Sudan, who depend on the delivery of essential and life-saving humanitarian assistance.

And let me join others in categorically condemning attacks on humanitarian workers that provide this life-saving assistance. No humanitarian worker should face threats of violence for simply trying to do their job. We call on South Sudanese officials to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers and organizations, and as Mr. Haysom noted, reduce bureaucratic impediments to delivering humanitarian assistance instead of putting new ones in place.

Finally, Madam President, although there has been some improvement over the last year, the United States remains concerned about the increase in violations of the status-of-forces agreement over the reporting period. This includes continued obstructions to UNMISS’s freedom of movement; the imposition of undue taxes, fees, and restrictions on UNMISS and its contractors; and the arrest of two UNMISS personnel in clear violation of the status-of-forces agreement arrest and detention procedure. We remind the Government of South Sudan that it has primary responsibility for ensuring the safety, security, and freedom of movement of UN personnel and assets and that all violations of the status-of-forces agreement are unacceptable.

More than ever, the people of Sudan – and the team at UNMISS – need our unified support on this Council to move toward peace, justice and free and fair elections. Thank you, Madam President.