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

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 17, 2019


Thank you, Special Representative Shearer and Ambassador Wronecka, for your briefings. And Ambassador Wronecka, allow me to congratulate you and your team for your leadership of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee over the past two years. Your expertise and dedication have been a great help to the Council.

As I have said before, this month is about clear-eyed assessment of Council portfolios. So let me be clear: the United States and the international community are losing confidence that South Sudan’s leaders have the will to guide their country to genuine peace and security. We are losing confidence that they share the best interests of their people, who are calling for peace amid a devastating, conflict-induced humanitarian crisis. This Council visited Juba to support implementation of the peace agreement. But South Sudan’s leaders blamed each other for hindering progress, and failed to publicly affirm their commitment to the ceasefire. The parties agreed to extend – again – the pre-transitional phase of the peace agreement. But in the month since, progress has been limited.

While the parties have committed to security arrangements and the unification of the military, there are credible reports of recruitment by the government and opposition. Civilian buildings remain occupied, primarily by government forces. Juba remains militarized. In response to the call for consultations on the number of states and their boundaries, the government has flatly refused to compromise. In response to calls for accountability, the government promotes and re-appoints officials accused of serious human rights abuses, and armed forces continue to conduct egregious acts of sexual and gender-based violence – including violations against children. In response to calls for transparent funding for the peace agreement, financial opacity reigns, and expert advice is ignored. South Sudan’s legislature recently approved a budget that could allow a higher expenditure on healthcare [allowances] for Members of Parliament than the healthcare budget for the entire country. Despite provisions to ensure the full participation of women in the formation of a transitional government, the parties continue to prevent women from effectively and meaningfully participating in the peace process. And the ability of humanitarian actors to reach those in need is increasingly limited. Their safety is threatened, and bureaucratic impediments remain in place, all at a time when massive flooding is compounding food insecurity. This lack of progress is nearly comprehensive.

However, South Sudan’s leaders can still form an inclusive transitional government by the end of the 100-day extension. We note today’s statement from South Sudan’s leaders re-committing to form a unity government by mid-February. We, and the people of South Sudan, look forward to such statements translating into tangible results. If implemented into full, the current agreement can provide the peace and stability for which the people of South Sudan have so clearly called. Regional engagement will also be essential, and I want to recognize the efforts of South Africa, working in collaboration with the special envoys of IGAD and Kenya, as well as the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, to convene the parties over the issue of the number and boundaries of states. Nevertheless, for real progress, Member States in the region must also hold South Sudan’s leaders accountable for failing to take further steps toward peace. After all, the entire region will suffer if the current process [collapses]; silencing the guns in South Sudan will take more than lofty rhetoric.

Moreover, violence in the Equatorias, Upper Nile, and the Lakes region demonstrates the continued need for UNMISS to protect civilians and undertake patrols in all areas of the country. The parties must grant UNMISS and humanitarian agencies full access, without delay. Along with easy access to weapons and continued violence, the willingness of armed groups and security forces to injure and even kill civilians justifies both a robust arms embargo and a sanctions regime targeting actors and entities that threaten peace and stability in South Sudan. If South Sudan’s leaders can’t implement basic provisions of their own agreement, the Council should consider a stronger and expanded sanctions regime. Indeed, the threat of sanctions and their implementation appear to be among the only actions that convince the parties to make progress.

Colleagues, while we are focused this month on the Council’s credibility, today, it is the leaders of South Sudan whose credibility is on the line – the credibility of their political will, and of this peace process. In this time, the United States offers its full support to the people of South Sudan – and we hope the country’s leaders do not let them down. Thank you.