Ambassadors were briefed by Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, who updated them on the latest political, humanitarian and human rights developments.
South Sudan’s warring sides signed the Revitalized Peace Agreement in 2018, establishing a transitional unity government. The roadmap, announced this past August, aims to complete key remaining tasks under the accord.
‘Second mortgage’ for peace
Mr. Haysom said progress has included passage of essential bills and the legislature’s ratification of the roadmap, which extends the current transitional period by 24 months, paving the way for elections.
“We hold the view that the roadmap is a second mortgage on the Revitalized Peace Agreement; one which must be repaid in good faith and within the stipulated timeframes,” he told the Council.
“As moral guarantors and partners of that agreement, our collective task is to ensure that the parties have the best possible international support to help them fulfill their commitments to the people of South Sudan.”
Foundation for stability
The UN envoy reported that he has underlined the need for “consistent and continued progress” on roadmap benchmarks in his engagements with President Salva Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar, and other national leaders.
“We urge stakeholders to conceive of the roadmap not as a box-ticking exercise, but rather a qualitative process to lay the proper foundations for a stable and democratic nation,” he said.
Legal and technical arrangements for elections should be finalized soon, he continued, as the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) has reviewed the Elections Act.
This is the first step in providing the legal basis for the reconstitution of the Commission that will manage the electoral process.
Critical deadlines missed
“While I commend the progress of the NCAC reviewing this Act, I note that the issue of implementation of quotas for women and persons with disabilities remains unresolved,” he said.
“I encourage the parties to reach a compromise on this matter, so that this legislation can be finalized at the earliest possible moment.”
Mr. Haysom was further concerned that deadlines for the Political Parties Act, the reconstituted National Constitutional Review Commission, and the establishment of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, have been missed.
“We consistently remind the South Sudanese that the two-year extension should not be regarded as a holiday break. We are concerned that delays are already having a domino effect on subsequent key benchmarks,” he warned.
Clashes, cattle raids and conflict
The UNMISS chief also expressed concern over armed militia clashes which have sparked displacement in northern Yonglei and neighbouring Upper Nile states.
He informed ambassadors of troubling intercommunal violence in another state, Warrap, and cattle raiding and migration-related conflicts in the Equatoria states.
Mr. Haysom drew attention to the ongoing worrying security situation in Upper Nile state. Violence there has taken on an ethnic dimension, he said, condemning killings, conflict related sexual violence, pillaging and large-scale civilian displacement.
Thousands of people have fled towards the UNMISS base at Kodok, and its protection of civilians site in the state capital, Malakal, which is already congested beyond capacity.
Impact on elections
Earlier this month, the UN Mission and partners issued a statement calling for the authorities to intervene, while urging an end to the violence and violations.
They warned that credible elections cannot take place in such an environment and that there will be consequences for those who promote conflict.
Mr. Haysom said tensions will continue to simmer and intensify as the electoral date draws closer.
“UNMISS will remain steadfast in prioritizing the protection of civilians in all aspects of our mandates and tasks: whether responding to pressing protection needs, like sub-national violence, or supporting a broader peace to take root, one that is underpinned by institutions of justice, human rights and accountability,” he affirmed.
“These efforts will go a long way to support an expansion of civic and political space and a culture of nonviolent debate and dispute resolution.”
Rising humanitarian needs
Turning to human rights, Mr. Haysom said UNMISS has issued five reports on the subject this year.
The Mission has also welcomed the activation of investigation committees on sub-national violence by the unity government, but Mr. Haysom urged these bodies to make their findings public.
“This would demonstrate the government’s commitment to accountability for perpetrators justice for survivors, and a pathway to reconciliation for all communities,” he said.
Meanwhile, humanitarians project that an estimated 9.4 million people in South Sudan – out of a population of roughly 12 million – will require support and protection next year.
Needs continue to outstrip wants, and the worsening humanitarian situation in the country has been exacerbated by flooding and localized drought.
Mr. Haysom also reported on the grim fact that humanitarians continue to give their lives serving there. Nine aid workers were killed in the line of duty this year, he said.