Thank you, Mr. President; thank you High Commissioner Pillay and Special Adviser Dieng for your disturbing briefings today.
My government joins with you and with others in condemning the outrageous and deliberate targeting of civilians in South Sudan. Instead of ceasing hostilities, as pledged three months ago, the parties have chosen to intensify fighting and to do so in ways that have shredded humanitarian norms. In April, forces loyal to former Vice President Machar attacked civilians in Bentiu, pursuing them into a hospital, a church and a mosque, killing at least 200 and likely many, many more, and leaving the dead laying in the streets. In Bor, against a backdrop of hostile rhetoric against the United Nations by senior South Sudanese government officials, several hundred armed youths entered the UNMISS camp by force and fired on displaced civilians in an ethnically-motivated assault that was as cowardly as it was ruthless. The death toll in the clash exceeded 110, including 48 civilians who were fleeing for their lives.
Violence against civilians has also taken place in Juba, Malakal, and Wau, accompanied by sexual abuse and the recruitment of child soldiers. We have also heard the ominous appearance of radio broadcasts that foment ethnic hate and incite further violence. And as we all know, more fighting means more displaced civilians in need of safe haven and sustenance, more lives disrupted, more schools closed, and an even larger burden for the increasingly hard-pressed UN, relief agencies, and donors.
We recall the jubilation less than three years ago when South Sudan achieved its independence. Amid honking horns and vivid expressions of national pride, cheering citizens raised their new flag and newly-appointed diplomats took their seats in the UN General Assembly. Friends of South Sudan who were familiar with the many sacrifices that preceded that day celebrated. Exiles returned home to help the new nation get on its feet. The international community lent ample support, including a UN mission that pledged to work hand in hand with the government and the Sudanese people to help build this new state. Civil society pitched in. And the vast majority of South Sudan’s citizens focused on the hard work of bolstering their economy and building stronger communities. But a country requires effective leadership and in South Sudan – after a promising start – the leaders in office and in the opposition have chosen to place personal rivalries and suspicions above the best interests of their country. Those fueling this conflict – many of the very same individuals instrumental in bringing about South Sudan’s independence – have chosen coercion over cooperation, and violence over the democratic process. The result is catastrophe.
Mr. President, it is unconscionable that South Sudan’s leaders have failed to take the steps necessary to restore peace and end the needless suffering of their people. The continuation of this failure could very well push the country further into a cycle of retaliatory ethnic killing, a deepening civil war, and an even more devastating humanitarian disaster that will worsen further with the full onset of seasonal rains and the looming prospect of famine.
To prevent this, we call on all sides to do right by the people of South Sudan, who placed their trust in you, and by the international community, who stood by you for decades and promised to roll up our sleeves and help you build your new country. Cease offensive military actions as you promised to do when you signed the Cessation of Hostilities. Allow UNMISS to carry out its mandate without harassment, threats, or fear of assault, to protect the people of South Sudan. Respect the rights and dignity of every citizen, regardless of their ethnicity. Enable the unfettered delivery of humanitarian supplies. Stop the warlike rhetoric and the incitement to violence, and publicly condemn any and all attacks on civilians. Return in good faith to the peace process moderated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Cooperate with UN and AU human rights investigators and monitors. Resolve your differences by peaceful means. And don’t just promise to do all of this as you have before – mean it and do it – and do it now.
Mr. President, the primary responsibility to end the violence in South Sudan rests with the country’s leaders, but there are helpful steps that this Council and the international community can take. On April 3, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order providing for targeted sanctions against those individuals determined to have contributed to atrocities or to have taken actions harmful to peace and stability in South Sudan. This Council should consider urgently whether to put in place parallel targeted Security Council sanctions so as to try to deter the outrageous attacks on civilians of the kind we saw in Bor and Bentiu last month. We will also never give up, of course, on diplomacy. Earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Juba, where he reiterated to President Kiir both the international community’s support for the people of South Sudan, and our refusal to stand by if the country’s leaders continue to go down the path of violence and destruction rather than that of negotiation and cooperation. President Kiir has said he will implement immediately the Cessation of Hostilities and will meet directly with former Vice President Machar. We have heard many promises from South Sudanese leaders, with no follow up. We hope, for the sake of the people of South Sudan suffering through this terrifying crisis, that this time is different, and we urge President Kiir and Riek Machar to swiftly agree on a date for face-to-face talks. The meeting is an emergency meeting and should be treated as such by both sides. Every day, the ethnic polarization and violence is growing worse.
I emphasize that the United States strongly supports the critical work of the UN Mission in South Sudan, as well as the relief agencies doing their best, under difficult conditions, to meet the needs of men, women and children in dire straits. I remind the government of South Sudan that it has an obligation to the international community to prevent attacks on the UN and these agencies. That means the government itself – again to repeat – must cease intimidation, harassment, and slander about the UN Mission and its personnel. In the coming days, my government will join in circulating a resolution that will revise the mandate of UNMISS to focus more fully on civilian protection, human rights monitoring and investigation, and the delivery of food and other emergency supplies. Given the key role UNMISS plays, this Council should take up that resolution with the urgency that this crisis demands.
Those who choose the path of further violence and hate have been given fair notice: No one has license to attack UN peacekeepers, international monitors, or civilian noncombatants of any nationality or ethnicity. No one has the right to target others because of their ethnicity, to incite violence, or to breach the protective walls of a UN base. Those who ignore this warning should have no doubt that the international community will do all within its power to hold those individuals accountable. The culture of impunity must end.
My colleagues, it is imperative that we remain determined and united in pressing the government and leading opposition figures in South Sudan to reverse their dangerous course, and genuinely – actually -- pursue peace. Last month, the world stopped for a moment to remember the genocide that took place in Rwanda twenty years ago. President Kiir attended that ceremony to pay his respects. Now President Kiir, former vice-president Machar, and other rebel leaders have a duty to themselves and to their fellow citizens to pull their country back from the abyss. It is not too late. But the window is closing. Thank you.
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