Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on South Sudan

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 7, 2022


Thank you Madam President, and thank you SRSG Haysom and to the briefers for your insightful and sobering presentations. Your reports provide a clear understanding of current developments and lack of progress in South Sudan, and of the significant contributions UNMISS is making in the country. Let me start by thanking the women and men of UNMISS, who serve to protect the people of South Sudan. I also commend the troop- and police-contributing countries and civilian experts for their efforts to preserve peace and stability in South Sudan.

In his most recent UNMISS report, the Secretary-General made clear that the mission’s mandated tasks remain valid. The United States agrees. To that end, today I want to discuss four aspects of the situation in South Sudan and UNMISS’s role in them: the security situation and protection of civilians; the widespread human rights abuses; progress toward democracy and the Revitalized Agreement; and the importance of humanitarian access.

First, the United States remains deeply concerned about the volatile security situation throughout the country. Fighting between numerous armed actors has led to horrific allegations of human rights abuses – including the killing of civilians, rapes, burning and destruction of villages, and the looting of humanitarian supplies. We strongly condemn these atrocious acts of violence and the impunity in which they are taking place. And we urgently call on local, state, and national leaders to immediately intervene and hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights abuses and attacks against humanitarian aid workers – regardless of affiliation.

Overall, protection of civilians, including the protection of women and children and accountability for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, must continue to be a top priority for UNMISS. Ms. Yuyada has made a demand that this Council deal with this issue and we need to listen to her request.

Which leads me to my second point: the United States is appalled by the recent findings in UNMISS’s and OHCHR’s joint report on human rights abuses committed in Tambura. The report documents 14 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence – involving 64 victims. It documents the abduction of civilians. It documents the killing of at least 440 civilians. Horrifically, the report documents that political and security sector elites have instigated, facilitated and aided this violence, and manipulated ethnic identities.

The victims and survivors of sexual violence were predominantly women and girls, of course. They were assaulted publicly. And at least nineteen of them who were publicly sexually assaulted, were brutally killed during or after. One of those killed was a 13 years old. This Council has to take these kinds of reports seriously. We can’t stay silent, and the region can’t stay silent. The Government of South Sudan must investigate and prosecute all those responsible for crimes committed, including and especially those in positions of command and authority. Similarly, we remain deeply concerned about reports of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UNMISS personnel over the last year, including two allegations filed last December. We urge all parties involved in these investigations to complete their inquiries in a timely and transparent manner, and to ensure accountability for perpetrators if these allegations are substantiated.

Third, the Government of South Sudan must swiftly implement key provisions of the Revitalized Agreement to work toward a true democracy. That means an inclusive constitution drafting process, public financial management reform, transitional security arrangements, and transitional justice mechanisms – including the Hybrid Court — in order to ensure free and fair elections that reflect the will of all South Sudanese. Unfortunately, the Government of South Sudan is behind in meeting key electoral benchmarks outlined in the Revitalized Agreement, and that is simply unacceptable. We urge the Government to establish the legal and institutional framework required to conduct free and fair elections.

The diminishing civic space in South Sudan is hindering the country’s progress toward democracy. In particular, the United States was seriously concerned by the detentions and arrest of journalists and civil rights activists by National Security Forces on February 22. Journalists and activists belong on the beat, they belong on the street; not in prison. The Government of South Sudan must respect the rights of all citizens in accordance with the transitional constitution. South Sudan needs to create an enabling environment for free and fair elections by respecting fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

Fourth and finally, we urge actors at the national and sub-national levels to do everything possible to facilitate humanitarian access. 8.9 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance this year. That’s 600,000 more than last year. This increase is driven by continued conflict, widespread flooding, deepening food insecurity, inflation, high food prices, and lack of access to basic services. These factors make UNMISS’s role so important. UNMISS must continue to work with all parties to implement its core task: and that is to create conditions that allow humanitarians unhindered access to the most vulnerable.

The United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan. We remain committed to working closely with the transitional government, our fellow Council members, and all stakeholders to enable peace and prosperity for the country and for the region.

Thank you, Madam President.