AFRICANGLOBE – Despite inter-communal violence and insecurity in the populous north-eastern State of Jonglei, South Sudan had made significant strides towards consolidating peace, creating an effective police force and establishing the rule of law, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
Hilde Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), recalled that on 25 April, President Salva Kiir had issued a decree of amnesty to the leaders of six armed groups fighting the Government.
The South Sudan Liberation Army, the so-called South Sudan Democratic Army and the South Sudan Defence Force had accepted it, and thousands of militias had come forward for reintegration, she added.
“This is a very positive development for stability in the country and in particular for Unity and Upper Nile States,” Ms. Johnson said while briefing the Council on political developments in South Sudan since March (see the report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan in document S/2013/366). With support from UNMISS, the Government and the South Sudan National Police Service had registered more than 47,000 police officers, she added, emphasizing that “ghost” officers would be weeded out, setting new standards of professionalism.
She said the Mission had also helped the Government deal with more than 1,000 cases of prolonged, arbitrary detention, and create a national security policy as well as a national census for all the country’s 10 States. A joint road map on integrated United Nations support for the 2015 elections had also been agreed. However, the austerity measures imposed after the oil-production shutdown of January 2012 as well as instability and divergences within the top echelons of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had made it difficult for the Government to implement political reforms and strengthen public institutions.
Although most of the country remained stable, fighting between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and the David Yau Yau armed group in Jonglei State had displaced thousands of civilians, she continued. Boma, Manyabol and Pibor, home to between 35,000 and 40,000 people, had largely been emptied, while the conditions of the remaining Murle population in inaccessible rural areas were largely unknown. Clashes in Boma and Pibor had led to considerable looting and damage to property, she said, adding that inter-communal violence continued in the tri-state area of Warrap, Lakes and Unity.
Reporting that two UNMISS peacekeepers had been killed on 9 April, when a military convoy had been ambushed outside Gumuruk, Ms. Johnson expressed “deep concern” over human rights violations by armed groups, arbitrary arrests, detentions and killings by security forces and the Government’s inability to hold those responsible to account.
In an encouraging sign, however, President Kiir had issued a statement on 17 May, condemning the violence by armed groups in Jonglei and the abuses committed by ill-disciplined elements of the security forces, while committing to bringing those responsible to justice. Moreover, in a 28 June statement, the Government had attempted a dialogue with David Yau Yau, and had reiterated its call for him to accept the offer of amnesty.
In response to the crisis in Jonglei, she continued, UNMISS had increased its military presence to an unprecedented nine infantry companies in late March, conducted hundreds of patrols and provided protection at its Pibor and Gumuruk bases to civilians seeking refuge.
But severe operational and logistical constraints during the rainy season were making it difficult to sustain more than five companies in Jonglei, while aviation-safety procedures and a lack of military aviation capacity were hampering the Mission’s ability to deploy troops in high-risk areas. Force multipliers were urgently needed to rectify the problem, she stressed, calling on the Council to fill critical gaps in the Mission’s aerial-surveillance, deterrence and supplementary heavy lift and riverine capabilities.
Francis Mading Deng (South Sudan) then described how ongoing tensions between his country and neighbouring Sudan, as well as intra-communal violence in Jonglei and other States, had severely constrained the Government’s ability to deliver much-needed basic services, ensure respect for human rights and protect civilians.
Acknowledging the international community’s deep concern over those challenges, he said they were the result of the prolonged war in South Sudan, not current Government policy. On the contrary, Government efforts to draft a new constitution, prepare for the 2015 elections and create a national census illustrated its determination to develop the necessary tools for democratic transformation in the young nation, he said. But “there is a gap between our aspirations and our performances, largely due to a lack of capacity”, he pointed out.
Turning to inter-communal violence and cattle rustling in some States, he said dialogue and reconciliation was the only way to promote peace, security and stability. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were essential, but there was also a need to foster a culture of peace, mutual accommodation and tolerance, while developing capacity to “silence the guns” and promote socioeconomic development and prosperity for all.
On the killings of UNMISS staff and humanitarian workers on 21 December 2012, as well as on 12 March and 9 April 2013, he expressed regret that the relevant investigations had been prolonged due to capacity constraints, but stressed that the Cabinet would discuss the matter this week to determine an appropriate response.
He said that despite difficult political and economic conditions and the unresolved issue of Abyei, including the recent assassination of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief in that area, the Government of South Sudan remained optimistic about its recent efforts for peace with neighbouring Sudan, including the consultations between their respective Vice Presidents.
“Positive results towards the goal of two viable, prosperous and peaceful States, living peacefully and cooperatively side by side, is indeed achievable,” he concluded, urging the international community and the Council to maintain their support so that the two sides could implement their agreements in good faith.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.