Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in South Sudan (via VTC)

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 16, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Shearer for your dedication to South Sudan and for your informative briefing today. Thank you also, to Under-Secretary Lowcock for updating us on the dire humanitarian situation in the country.

Ms. Tai, the United States commends your dedication to building peace in South Sudan. We echo your call for the full, effective, and meaningful participation of women in all spheres and all levels of political leadership, and in the peace process. Thank you so much for your briefing today. We really hope to hear more from you in the days and years to come.

Mr. President, September 12 marked the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. South Sudan’s leaders have taken courageous steps to form the national unity government and to begin establishing provincial and local institutions. The process of building a unified military has started. Negotiations with non-signatory armed groups yielded a renewed cessation of hostilities agreement – albeit one that remains imperfectly implemented.

The United States fully recognizes the efforts – domestic, regional, and international – which support achieving these benchmarks. We applaud the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and other regional partners who continue to play a key role in achieving progress. We also recognize and welcome South Sudan’s role in brokering peace agreements for Sudan.

Now, however, is the time for South Sudan’s leadership to redouble efforts to accelerate implementation of their own peace agreement and to deliver stability and security for the Sudanese people. South Sudan’s people have yet to see tangible benefits from the political commitments made by their leaders. This will continue to be the case until South Sudan’s leaders fully embrace the letter and spirit of their own peace agreement.

When Ambassador Craft met with women in Malakal last year, she asked them when they would believe that peace had finally come to South Sudan. These women told her they would believe when they were able to visit the market and collect firewood without fear of violence. They would believe when they could provide enough food for their family so that their children could go to school and not be hungry. They would truly believe when they saw former soldiers from the different warring parties walking side-by-side and working together to protect the people.

Mr. President, unfortunately, we remain far from the point when the people of South Sudan can believe that peace has come to the country.

Violence in South Sudan remains widespread and increasing over levels seen last year. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed so far this year. Sexual and gender-based violence is committed with impunity and the abduction of women and children continues unabated.

As USG Lowcock explained in his briefing, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains among the most dire in the world, and it is directly linked to ongoing conflict and violence in the country. Hunger affects an estimated 6 million people in South Sudan. Over 157,000 persons were newly displaced since February. Nine humanitarian aid workers were killed so far this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates additional fiscal and humanitarian needs, exacerbating challenges for those seeking to govern effectively in South Sudan.

But through these challenging times, the United States continues to stand with the people of South Sudan. Our Special Envoy just returned from Juba, where he urged President Kiir and South Sudan’s Vice Presidents to undertake immediate reforms and make meaningful investments in the peace agreement. All three Troika Special Envoys were in Juba together for the first time since 2017, delivering joint, face-to-face messages to leaders, humanitarian workers, and civil society.

The United States remains the largest provider of humanitarian assistance, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, we have provided over $40 million in COVID-related assistance. This assistance is in addition to past U.S. investments in South Sudan that total $6.4 billion over the past 20 years.

We continue to be a steadfast supporter of UNMISS and its life saving work to protect civilians in conflict. And we welcome and encourage continued UNMISS rapid deployments in Jonglei, and elsewhere, to provide protection and deter violence against civilians.

Protecting civilians in Protection of Civilian sites remains an essential task. As UNMISS continues to transition its role in these sites, we urge meaningful coordination and transparency with the humanitarian community and with displaced persons themselves. We also look forward to the results of the UN’s independent strategic review of UNMISS.

Mr. President, in the months to come, the United States will judge progress in South Sudan’s peace process in a few key areas:

There should be an end to South Sudan’s restrictions on UNMISS patrols and movements. UNMISS is a critical component of the peace architecture in South Sudan and its operations have saved many thousands of lives. South Sudan’s leaders need to start treating UNMISS like a partner, not as an enemy.

All parties and armed groups should adhere to cessation of hostilities or cease-fires. Given the recent violence in the Equatorias, we call on parties to abide by their commitments, including a renewed commitment under the auspices of the Sant’Egidio, to end conflict and renew expeditiously their dialogue.

There should be efforts to hold accountable those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, including progress on implementing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan; civil society institutions, the media and opposition political parties should operate without intimidation; and corruption must be reduced through implementation of provisions in the Revitalized Peace Agreement on joint governance, fiscal transparency, and accountability.

Mr. President, these areas for progress are not new. They reflect commitments already made by South Sudan’s leaders and endorsed by the region and the international community. We are simply asking South Sudan’s leaders to honor their own commitments.

If these leaders are able to step up now, to put aside differences, and to accelerate implementation of the peace agreement, we believe that South Sudan’s people will start to experience increased stability, security, and prosperity.

They will be able to believe that peace has come.

The United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan, and to working with the transitional government and this Council to enable peace and prosperity for the country and for the region.

Thank you, Mr. President.