Security Council Cautiously Commends South Sudan Revitalized Peace Agreement amid Concerns over Commitment of Signatories to Implementation
Permanent Representative Says Government Will Honour Accord in Good Faith
Cautiously welcoming a week-old peace deal ending the fighting in South Sudan, Security Council members raised a range of concerns about subsequent clashes and the protracted humanitarian crisis, as high-level officials updated on recent developments today.
Highlighting the steps leading to the 12 September signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, briefers shared challenges ahead, with some calling for enhanced support as leaders embarked on a path to sustainable peace.
Indeed, the accord offers an opportunity to “turn a new page”, said Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefing the Council on elements of the Secretary-General’s 90-day progress report on South Sudan (document S/2018/831). The new agreement provides a road map for peace through reform, political transformation, security, development and national reconciliation. However, he expressed concern about the low level of trust among signatories, and about pockets of violence exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation.
Nicholas Haysom, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, said that, while the accord might have flaws, it is still an effective platform for peace as long as stakeholders demonstrate the political will to implement it.
Ismail Wais, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy for South Sudan, addressing the Council via videoconference, said the landmark accord deserves robust support. The all-inclusive process leading to its signing allowed all parties, including estranged groups, women and young people, to participate, he said, emphasizing that all actors must support peace efforts going forward.
Speaking on behalf of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum, Grace John, Governance and Peace Manager of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, said people are desperately hoping that commitment to the Revitalized Agreement is genuine. Among her concerns is that some opposition groups declined to sign the accord, while others were not involved in the negotiations.
Urging the Council to act decisively on a range of concerns, she said members must press IGAD to advocate continued engagement with such groups in order to widen support for the accord. In addition, the Council must insist on the immediate establishment of the Hybrid Court on South Sudan to end impunity for grave human rights violations, she said, and exert pressure on parties to honour the ceasefire in a timely manner. Pointing out that South Sudanese women participated in the negotiations on the Revitalized Agreement, she said one of their major achievements is greater participation in the Government by women.
In the ensuing discussion, South Sudan’s delegate said President Salva Kiir has pledged to implement the Revitalized Agreement in good faith, appealing for reconciliation among the people. While the accord is difficult and complicated, with the international community voicing concerns, he said those issues must not undermine its significance. The Revitalized Agreement should be seen as a positive turn of events, an achievement upon which to build. He urged the Council to join the Secretary-General, the African Union and IGAD in making peace a reality at long last in South Sudan.
Many Council members applauded the deal, with Kazakhstan’s representative calling it a great example of “African solutions to African problems”. Some said it meant a chance to forge a prosperous future, while others underlined the importance of an inclusive and genuine political process. Ethiopia’s representative noted that the Revitalized Agreement was unique in that all parties signed without reservations. The process was conducted in an all-inclusive, transparent manner, with political organizations — including estranged groups — fully involved in the negotiations. The continued commitment of all parties must be ensured, he said, advocating support from IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations and underscoring the importance of the Council’s role in ensuring both the deployment of the Regional Protection Force and a review of its mandate.
Some delegates expressed concerns, with many citing the dire humanitarian situation that had displaced millions who now required assistance. Recalling past failures to implement peace agreements, the representative of the United States advocated a radical change among South Sudan’s leaders and greater accountability before the Council welcomes any agreement. Doing otherwise would mean turning a blind eye to the lack of success in the past. France’s delegate meanwhile said the international community must respond to the humanitarian challenge while at the same time holding firm in dealing with those responsible for the situation. Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate, expressing grave concern over reports of inter-ethnic conflict and crime across South Sudan, recommended that steps to peace include measures to re-establish trust and foster dialogue among parties.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the Netherlands, Poland, Kuwait, Peru, United Kingdom, Sweden, China, Bolivia, Russian Federation and Equatorial Guinea.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:09 p.m.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presented the report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan (document S/2018/831) covering the period from 4 June to 1 September. Commending the sustained efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in support of peace, he underlined the significance of the 12 September signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan by key stakeholders. An important milestone in a crisis now entering its fifth year, the new agreement provides a road map for peace through reform, political transformation, security, development and national reconciliation, he added. However, he expressed concern about pockets of violence exacerbating worsening already dire humanitarian conditions and displacing more than 2 million people.
The international community must send a strong message to the parties in conflict that with the new political accord, there is no longer any justification for continued clashes, and call upon them to demonstrate leadership, he emphasized, adding that the Agreement offers an opportunity for South Sudan to “turn a new page”. While the road ahead is difficult, he said, IGAD has been playing a critical role and must continue to bring its influence to bear on the parties to meet their obligations under the Revitalized Agreement. The United Nations, for its part, stands ready to help South Sudan achieve the Revitalized Agreement’s goals, he pledged, adding that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stands ready to fulfil its mandate, guided by the principles of protecting civilians, preserving a single unified force and contributing to a secure environment conducive to implementation of the new Revitalized Agreement.
NICHOLAS HAYSOM, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, said the latter is preparing to implement a revitalized peace agreement following two years of civil war. Emphasizing the importance of considering how the international community and the United Nations should assess, support or otherwise respond to the revitalized plan, he said there is also a need to acknowledge the achievement of Sudan, supported by Uganda, in mediating the Revitalized Agreement. While the accord might have flaws, it is still an effective platform for peace as long as stakeholders demonstrate the political will to implement it, he said.
But, significant parties continue to express reservations on the Revitalized Agreement and the Government faces substantive governance issues, including the geography of tribal authority, he said. However, such issues are not insurmountable if approached in an inclusive manner, he said, adding that the parties were alerted to the necessity of addressing the enforceability of the new Revitalized Agreement. Emphasizing that no agreement can last in the face of continuing violations, he stressed that the region must demonstrate commitment to making the Revitalized Agreement effective. Relevant parties must demonstrate their political intent by putting down their guns, he said, underlining that international support will not be forthcoming without such a sign.
He went on to state that the low level of trust among relevant parties is a clear hurdle, adding that it is likely they and their leaders will be competing candidates in future elections. Detailed security arrangements are critical, he emphasized. Turning to cantonment sites, he said there is no agreement on where they will be sited. IGAD must engage with the Security Council since only the Council can determine the size and composition of peacekeeping forces. The present issues do not prevent the Revitalized Agreement from being welcomed as a real step forward, he said, while emphasizing that it is clear the international community will need to keep South Sudan and the Revitalized Agreement under close watch.
ISMAIL WAIS, Special Envoy for South Sudan of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), briefed members via videoconference, highlighting the achievements of the parties to the new Revitalized Agreement and current challenges. The Khartoum round of talks advanced discussions and led to the cessation of hostilities, ultimately producing an agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, he said. Indeed, the landmark Agreement deserved robust support and all actors must now continue to help in building a new South Sudan. The all-inclusive process leading up to the Revitalized Agreement allowed all parties, including estranged groups, women and young people, to come to the table and participate, he said, emphasizing that all actors must support efforts for peace going forward. Citing a number of decisions taken by the IGAD Assembly, he said one was that Mr. Machar can remain in a member country of his choice. Commending the people and Government of South Sudan, he applauded their efforts to advance the peace process. Rebuilding South Sudan and addressing the dire humanitarian situation are priorities and all efforts must be made to achieve those common objectives.
GRACE JOHN, Governance and Peace Manager of Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, said she also spoke on behalf of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum. Noting that the country’s people are desperately clinging to the hope that commitment to the Revitalized Agreement is genuine and that any future peace will be fragile, she said that is because some opposition groups declined to sign the accord, while others were not involved in the negotiations. The Council must call upon IGAD to support continued engagement with such groups in order to widen support for the Revitalized Agreement, she emphasized.
She went on to note that complete impunity for human rights abuses are persistent and stressed the need for measures to prevent widespread rape and other violations. The Council must insist on the immediate establishment of the Hybrid Court on South Sudan, and communities must engage in dialogue to resolve differences without violence. She said Ugandan and Sudanese forces have entered South Sudan in the past month without a United Nations mandate, underlining that any forces entering the country under the pretext of the Revitalized Agreement must do so as part of a mission mandated by the Security Council.
Pointing out that South Sudanese women participated in the negotiations on the Revitalized Agreement, she said one of their major achievements is greater participation in the Government by women. While that is a cause for celebration, it is necessary to ensure that efforts for further participation are implemented, she said, urging the Council to exert pressure on parties to the Revitalized Agreement to honour and implement the ceasefire in a timely manner. Ensuring humanitarian access and the safety of humanitarian workers is also a top priority, she said.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, noting that past failures raise concerns about the new Agreement, as do reports of clashes after the deal was signed. Going forward, there must be a radical change among South Sudan’s leaders and greater accountability before the Council welcomes any agreement, he said, emphasizing that doing otherwise would mean turning a blind eye to past failures. The Kiir Government must ensure a fair sharing of power, he said, calling upon the African Union to stay abreast of developments, and stakeholders to work for further progress. Calling on all countries to uphold the current sanctions against South Sudan, he said there must be no impunity for recent crimes. In this fragile transition to peace, UNMISS must continue to focus on protecting civilians and remain flexible in adapting to any changes in its mandate, he said. Noting that South Sudan remains among the most dangerous environments for humanitarian workers, he stressed that more must be done to protect those providing assistance.
TAYE ATSKE SELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) noted that the Revitalized Agreement was unique in that all parties signed without reservations and the process was conducted in an all-inclusive, transparent manner, with political organizations — including estranged groups — fully involved in the negotiations. He expressed hope those efforts would provide a realistic foundation for full implementation of the Revitalized Agreement, despite division within the ranks of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance. The continued commitment of all parties must be ensured, as they are the guarantors of the Agreement’s implementation. He called for support from IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations, stressing that the importance of the Council’s role in ensuring the deployment of the Regional Protection Force and a review of its mandate. A permanent ceasefire is essential for unhindered access to the population and safety of humanitarian personnel, he concluded.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) stressed the importance of an inclusive and genuine political process in South Sudan, pressing all signatories of the Revitalized Agreement to ensure its implementation. Building a sustainable peace will require addressing the causes of the conflict, he said, underlining the importance of adhering to the targeted sanctions and arms embargo on that country. Ensuring the accountability of all actors in the conflict is crucial. He called on South Sudan to investigate all crimes and bring perpetrators to justice, especially given the systemic sexual violence in the region, calling the Hybrid Court essential to ensuring such accountability. In addition, UNMISS and other United Nations staff must have unrestricted access to all parts of the country, he noted, condemning recent attacks against peacekeepers and humanitarian workers and expressing concern about rising tensions in civilian protection sites.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the international community must be vigilant in advocating respect for the ceasefire, protection of civilians, humanitarian access and the safety of humanitarian workers. Progress on the ground remains limited, and the humanitarian challenge is immense, with an entire generation having been sacrificed. Underscoring concern over the human rights situation, she said France, with its international and regional partners, remains ready to accompany South Sudan along the road to peace. The international community must respond to the humanitarian challenge while at the same time holding firm in dealing with those responsible for the situation, she said.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) expressed cautious optimism about the new agreement, noting that despite some positive developments, dire humanitarian conditions continued. Particularly concerning are reports of attacks on women and girls, the displacement of millions and the hunger and suffering of many citizens. It is high time the political leaders of South Sudan set aside their differences and prioritize the people first. This means, among other things, involving women and youth in peacebuilding efforts.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said the historic peace agreement was a great example of “African solutions to African problems”, expressing hope that it will lay the foundations of durable peace and stability in South Sudan and end people’s suffering. To achieve this, the Council must remain united in supporting IGAD, the African Union and those parties in South Sudan who are implementing the Agreement’s provisions. The international community also should endeavour to build trust between the parties, as well as provide sustained funding for humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding. Parties must also demonstrate genuine political will to implement the Revitalized Agreement, he said, underscoring the important role of civil society, women and youth in fostering reconciliation.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said the Council was meeting after the signing of the Revitalized Agreement and urged non-signatories to join peace efforts. IGAD members were playing a significant role in efforts to end conflict in South Sudan. The continued internal displacement of people and the flow of refugees to neighbouring countries is a major concern, he said, stressing that peace will be incomplete if their living standards are not improved. UNMISS must continue to operate unobstructed and in respect of the law. He called for all perpetrators of rights violations to be held accountable. Turning to security, he voiced concern over violations to the peace agreement, namely in Central Equatoria, urging the international community to pursue monitoring and evaluation efforts related to the peace process.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) commended the signing of the Revitalized Agreement but called attention to repeated rights violations undermining the credibility of peace efforts. Parties to the conflict must remain committed to the Revitalized Agreement’s implementation as the international community must see substantive efforts from them in order to provide assistance. UNMISS is pursuing significant efforts to protect civilians, including the most vulnerable members of society. He advocated strengthened international cooperation in order to promote sustainable development, specifically in the fields of health and nutrition, pressing the Council to stand united and cooperate with the South Sudanese peace process.
DESIRE WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcoming tireless efforts by regional leaders, pressed authorities in South Sudan to commit to implementing the Revitalized Agreement, and all parties to work resolutely for peace, refraining from unilateral actions that might threaten progress. Measures must be taken to re-establish trust and foster dialogue. However, he noted with grave concern reports of inter-ethnic conflict and crime across South Sudan. The dire humanitarian situation must be urgently addressed, including the many children remaining out of school and persistence of human rights violations, notably sexual crimes. Every effort should be made to strengthen the rule of law, he said, welcoming the recent conviction of 10 Government soldiers on charges of sexual violence. Commending UNMISS for its support during extreme conditions, he said the Mission’s presence remains necessary to protect civilians and aid workers. The success of the new agreement depended on political will and international support.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the new deal marks a significant achievement and a first step on a long journey towards peace. The conflict has killed thousands and forced one third of the population to flee their homes, with many needing humanitarian assistance. The Revitalized Agreement must create an environment conducive to progress, with words transformed into meaningful action. The continued violence following the signing of the deal is concerning, as are reports of attacks on aid workers and UNMISS. Impunity must end, he said, expressing support for the creation of a hybrid court and calling sanctions important to ensuring signatories meet their obligations. For the Council to be convinced of parties’ commitment, they must all demonstrate the will to work for the benefit of all citizens. The international community must show unity, while the leaders of South Sudan must set aside their differences.
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden), acknowledging the accomplishment of reaching the Revitalized Agreement, said a clear political will of the parties is now needed to implement it. He expressed concern about reports of military operations, noting that a cessation of hostilities by all parties must be unconditional or violators must face consequences. The region must maintain inclusive engagement and monitoring of the Revitalized Agreement’s implementation, he asserted, also stressing the importance of accountability and transitional justice mechanisms, such as the proposed hybrid court, given the high levels of conflict-related sexual violence. Citing the concerning humanitarian situation in South Sudan, he called for rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian relief and personnel across the country.
WU HAITAO (China) said the peace process has made important progress with the signing of the Revitalized Agreement. However, the situation remains fragile, he noted, adding that the United Nations and the international community must pay close attention to developments and provide assistance. While the signatory parties must work to build trust, the international community can help by providing support for inclusive dialogue. He expressed hope that UNMISS will continue to provide support to the Government, emphasizing that the humanitarian situation must also be addressed. Calling upon the international community to help in advancing State-building efforts while examining the root causes of the conflict, among other things.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) stressed the essential need to support South Sudan, especially in helping to restore trust among the parties. Expressing concern that 6 million people, more than half of the population, require some form of assistance, he said his delegation is particularly alarmed by the suffering of children and urged the international community to help avert a crisis. Spotlighting other areas requiring attention, he called for the redoubling of efforts to combat impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and for the launch of initiatives to remove landmines in order to facilitate the return of the displaced.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said his delegation’s consistent position on South Sudan is that peace will come from a sustainable ceasefire and a national reconciliation process. The revitalized agreement requires greater detail but remains relevant, he said, adding that IGAD efforts are facilitating a peaceful resolution of the conflict, including when the parties refuse to engage in dialogue. He said regional partners must assist in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement because there must be “African solutions to African problems”. The Russian Federation encouraged South Sudanese politicians to demonstrate good will in the accord’s implementation, he said, emphasizing that excessive pressure exerted through sanctions will send the wrong signal and make it more difficult to achieve peace.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) paid tribute to IGAD’s hard work in bringing the parties together to sign the Revitalized Agreement. Facilitation of the peace process has been possible in recent months, he noted. Condemning attacks on civilians and humanitarian actors, he stressed the obligation to meet the humanitarian needs of South Sudan’s people. The Revitalized Agreement brings new hope for South Sudan, but peace will only become a reality if all stakeholders comply with and respect the accord, he said. UNMISS must adjust its activities on the ground in order to better manage the post-conflict period, he added, calling for all rights violators to be held accountable.
AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan), heralding the winds of change blowing in the region, said President Salva Kiir has pledged to implement the Revitalized Agreement in good faith and had appealed for reconciliation among the people. While the agreement is difficult and complicated, with the international community voicing concerns, he said those issues must not undermine its significance. Appealing to the international community to regard the Revitalized Agreement as a positive turn of events, he said it was also an achievement upon which to build. He urged the Council to join the Secretary-General, the African Union and IGAD in making sustainable peace a reality at long last in South Sudan.