Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 18, 2018


We would like to thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, for your update on the implementation of the UNMISS mandate. And thanks to you and Mr. Wais for the discussion of the political dynamics and developments in South Sudan. Special Envoy Haysom, we’re thankful to be able to take advantage of your knowledge with only a few days left in your assignment, so thank you for being here. And Grace John, we sincerely appreciate you joining us at such a late hour. Your perspective helps us understand the situation on the ground in South Sudan, and it’s critical to our discussion here today. So thank you.

The United States continues to support the people of South Sudan and their aspirations for freedom, peace, and prosperity. We welcome the commitment of the region to come together to address common peace and security priorities for the benefit of its citizens. We want to see this commitment translate into a lasting peace for the people of South Sudan.

The United States acknowledges the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, but past failures make us concerned about the sustainability of this agreement. For example, how should we interpret the fact that military offensives have been undertaken in violation of numerous ceasefire agreements, even during recent negotiations. How can we reconcile continued blockages to humanitarian access and the killing of 13 humanitarian workers since January? How can we explain ongoing detention of political prisoners, including Peter Biar Ajak?

There has to be a radical change in the behavior of South Sudan’s leaders and a demonstrated commitment to peace, inclusivity, financial accountability, and good governance before we as the Security Council should welcome any agreement. Otherwise, we are turning a blind eye to past failures.

Implementation of the latest agreement must begin with the greatest confidence-building measure of all, an end to fighting. It must be broadly inclusive of ordinary people across South Sudan – civil society, religious communities, ethnic minorities, and other groups.

The Kiir government needs to ensure greater and more representative power-sharing. There must be meaningful checks on executive and majority power.

The United States supports the continued engagement of the region to facilitate implementation of the agreement and acknowledges the role of Sudan and Ethiopia in hosting recent negotiations. We urge the IGAD Member States and the African Union to intensify their involvement in monitoring progress on implementation and to hold the parties to account. Violations of the agreement should be highlighted, and those responsible need to face consequences.

The United States calls on all nations to implement the UN arms embargo that the Security Council adopted just over two months ago. We have to continue to demonstrate that we will take action against individuals or entities who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan if these agreements are to have any chance of successful implementation.

The United States will also prepare sanctions on additional individuals or entities who engage in corrupt activity. We call on regional leaders and financial institutions to ensure the proceeds from corrupt activity do not flow through their jurisdictions and to freeze assets connected to illicit transactions.

There must also be accountability for the crimes of recent years. The establishment and activation of the AU Hybrid Court is long past due. This is an urgent priority; we call on our AU partners to make this court a reality, as called for in the latest agreement.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan as played, and will continue to play, a vital role in keeping the peace in South Sudan. In this fragile and uncertain transition to peace, it’s important that the UNMISS mandate continue to focus on protection of civilians, while properly configuring the mission to address evolving risks and realities on the ground.

The United States notes with deep concern the dire, conflict-induced humanitarian situation in South Sudan. An estimated 7 million people currently require humanitarian assistance; over 4 million of these are children.

For the third year running, South Sudan remains among, if not the, most dangerous environment for aid workers in the world. We need urgent actions to address the egregious access denials, rent-seeking impediments by the government, and the violence that endangers humanitarians.

Refugees and internally displaced persons must not be forced to return if they feel unsafe. The end of fighting must not mean a call for forced repatriation.

Above all, we support the aspirations of the people of South Sudan to lead lives unburdened by fear, and to experience peace, pluralism, and prosperity. In a recent interview, the Archbishop of South Sudan Justin Badi put it best: “Peace is not something on paper; peace is something which is deeper.”

It is now time for the leaders of South Sudan to demonstrate that their commitments on paper can lead to a genuine peace and a prosperous future for the people of South Sudan.