Thank you, Mr. President, for scheduling today’s briefing and for initiating this very worthy mission by the Council. On behalf of Ambassador Power, let me thank all of you for contributing to a timely and constructive visit to South Sudan. Special thanks go out to Ambassador Gasana and the Rwandan delegation for their strong partnership as co-leaders of this portion of the trip.
The Council is the long-time friend of South Sudan. It is, therefore, fitting and fair to characterize this visit as an emergency call given the deteriorating political, humanitarian and security crisis unfolding there. In less than 24 hours on the ground, we were able to hear from many key stakeholders and to convey the Council’s concern over the direction events have taken.
We held candid and tough exchanges with President Kiir and Riek Machar and their senior advisers, delivering a number of key messages, including that there is no military solution and the fighting must stop; that it is time to resume IGAD-led peace talks and develop plans for a transitional government of national unity; that there must be accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, and that there must be respect for and cooperation with UNMISS, including by not interfering with humanitarian access. We also clearly signaled that the Council was prepared to impose consequences on spoilers to the peace process. At the conclusion of these discussions, there was a sense of hope, but not confidence that these leaders would take positive action.
In one of the most striking portions of the trip, the Council traveled 325 miles to the north, to Malakal, to see the plight of the internally displaced first-hand. Imagine 17,000 civilians, across all ethnicities and demographics living in the most difficult of circumstances at an UNMISS protection of civilians camp. We were struck by the resilience as they engaged with the Council on politics, security and the leadership of women, all while making their case for peace.
Similarly, we heard very clear messages from faith-based, civil society, and women’s leaders during a session in Juba. In this dialogue, leaders stressed the importance of holding inclusive political talks. Similarly, they called on their leaders to allow humanitarian access to fight acute malnutrition, to commit to full accountability, and to stop the war now.
Let me conclude on South Sudan by reporting that new SRSG Ellen Løj joined the program in her designate capacity before officially starting work on September 1st. We were able to offer our staunch support for her throughout the visit. We also were able to see new UNMISS Force Commander General Yohannes and our TCCs in action, as well as to be briefed by Deputy SRSGs Ray Zenenga and Toby Lanzer on UNMISS operations and the humanitarian situation. Our message to all of UNMISS was: thank you for your courageous work, you have the Council’s full support.
Before turning it back to you, Mr. President, let me also mention that the Council used its transit time in Nairobi to meet with Kenyan President Kenyatta, and to hold a joint meeting between the Council and IGAD ministers and representatives to discuss South Sudan and Somalia. Both meetings provided valuable insights as we continue to work closely with the region to bring peace and security to both countries.
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