Remarks at a UN Security Council Ministerial Meeting on South Sudan

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 23, 2017



Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, President Mogae and Ms. Sunday, for your briefings.

We are outraged by the events unfolding in South Sudan – especially the widespread violence, ongoing atrocities, and obstruction of humanitarian access. Rather than committing to the ceasefire called for in the 2015 peace agreement endorsed by this body, South Sudan’s leaders – both in government and in opposition movements – have chosen to undertake new military offensives and orchestrate militia attacks, placing their own interests above those of their people.

Last December, some colleagues in the Security Council argued that pressure would be counterproductive, because it would block a renewed political process. But there has been no progress since December. Instead, the situation has deteriorated and it is even more grave now. There is ongoing and active fighting, 40,000 South Sudanese have been displaced to Uganda in the last three weeks alone, with almost 500,000 since last July. There are almost 5 million people facing severe hunger, and famine has been declared in two counties with the very real prospect of it spreading. The famine is not a result of drought; it is the result of leaders more interested in political power and personal gain than in stopping violence and allowing humanitarian access. The government’s continued unconscionable impediments to humanitarians seeking access to assist famine-stricken populations may amount to deliberate starvation tactics.

There are reports of civilians being deliberately targeted on an ethnic basis, rampant sexual violence, widespread unlawful recruitment of child soldiers, destruction of homes, and looting of property. It is not the first time in this now three-year-old conflict that government forces have employed a scorched earth campaign – since September 2016 alone, almost 17,000 structures have been destroyed in just part of the former state of Central Equatoria.

Our goals are clear: the parties must cease hostilities, engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue, and they must deliver on their repeated promises to allow unfettered access for humanitarian organizations.

Any political process must be truly inclusive of all South Sudanese voices in order to be sustainable and credible. And dialogue must complement the peace agreement – the core elements of which include a permanent ceasefire, power-sharing, and critical reforms – a roadmap to lasting peace. We welcome the continued commitment of the United Nations and regional organizations to peace and stability in South Sudan and we look to the shuttle diplomacy of AU High Representative President Konare and full engagement by IGAD to yield results in the next month.

It is against this backdrop that UNMISS, the peacekeeping mission authorized by this Council, is being prevented by both government and opposition forces from fully carrying out its mandate. Moreover, the Council-authorized Regional Protection Force has encountered unacceptable delays in deploying. This Council should take seriously this deliberate repudiation of its Chapter VII mandate.

The international community must make use of all the tools at its disposal to address the crisis in South Sudan and the many obstructions to UNMISS’s mission. We have had warning after warning about the prospect for further mass atrocities. But we do not need such warnings to know that the sustained level of violence and ongoing atrocities in South Sudan are beyond unacceptable. As has been noted, an arms embargo is one tool the Council could use to address the ongoing violence in South Sudan.

Similarly, our unanimously adopted sanctions resolution gives us the ability to designate individuals whose actions or policies threaten peace in South Sudan, including those who obstruct the activities of international peacekeeping or humanitarian missions, those whose actions or policies expand the conflict, and those who engage in targeting of civilians, including women and girls.

Finally, I would like to say a word about accountability. Progress in establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan is desperately needed; and we urge the African Union and South Sudan to expedite progress on this important mechanism in the coming months. Peace and justice can and should be pursued simultaneously.

Thank you, Mr. President.