Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 16, 2022
Thank you, Ms. Riziq and SRSG Haysom, for your comprehensive briefings on the situation in South Sudan. The United States commends the work of UNMISS leadership, the men and women of UNMISS, and the troop- and police-contributing countries who play such a critical role in protecting civilians, and mitigating conflicts in many volatile areas.
My remarks today will address three key themes: first, UNMISS contributions toward peace and security in the South Sudan; second, the disappointing step backwards on a political solution to the country’s transition period, and lastly but not least – the continued human rights abuses including pervasive sexual violence that we just heard referred to by Ms. Riziq.
First, we commend UNMISS’s efforts and dedication to de-escalate tensions in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states over the past month, where thousands of civilians have fled their homes due to fighting between armed factions. The most recent outbreak of violence occurred in Adidiang, Upper Nile State on September 7, resulting in numerous deaths and the destruction of buildings used for humanitarian purposes. Displaced peoples, as we heard, are now fleeing to the Malakal protection of civilian site, where UNMISS is, as we heard, providing shelter and critical humanitarian assistance.
We note with grave concern that heavy rains and flash flooding, that continue to affect tens of thousands of people across South Sudan. These events underscore the continuing impact of climate change on vulnerable communities. The United States is supporting the provision of safe drinking water, hygiene kits, emergency shelter items, and more to the most affected communities. And longstanding USAID disaster preparedness programs in South Sudan are also responding through the distribution of prepositioned relief supplies.
The United States is appalled by the trauma, the violence, and inhumane conditions the people of South Sudan are forced to experience on a daily basis. We urge the Government of South Sudan to take immediate actions to end hostilities and engage in dialogue – dialogue to resolve remaining causes of conflict. We urgently call on South Sudanese officials, members of this Council, and the international community to assist UNMISS in its humanitarian efforts to address the dire needs of civilians, while also providing for the safety and security of UNMISS personnel, humanitarian workers in South Sudan, and internally displaced persons.
Second, the United States is highly disappointed that South Sudan’s leaders extended the transitional period – thus again extending their own time in power – despite failing over the past four years to deliver fully on the commitments they made in the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.
We regret that the government leaders did not postpone ratification of the extension to allow themselves time to demonstrate – through sustained action and results on the ground – that the new commitment as set out in their roadmap will be different from the last few years. We also regret that the government did not take the opportunity for meaningful engagement with civil society and other agreement stakeholders, which we believe would increase the chances of successful implementation.
Third, as we heard from Ms. Riziq, UNMISS and OHCHR released a September joint report on human rights abuses committed in southern Unity. The report documented human rights violations and abuses including the killings of 173 civilians, the abduction of civilians, and sexual violence. The report specifically finds that government and allied forces engaged in scorched-earth tactics against victims, including children: such as shooting, beheading, burning alive, or drowning them in swamps. The report also documents 131 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape and gang rape of women, and as we tragically heard, girls as young as eight, reporting that such acts were systematically committed by government and allied forces as a method or strategy of warfare.
While we welcome UNMISS support of mobile courts, we continue to be alarmed by the prevalence of gender-based violence cases, including conflict-related sexual violence, occurring throughout the country. It is completely unacceptable that women, girls, and boys are subjected to this, with the most severe impact on women and girls in all their diversity.
We urge the Government of South Sudan to swiftly investigate all human rights violations and abuses, including conflict-related sexual violence, and to hold perpetrators to account. Thank you, Madame President.