By Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
August 15, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– Thank you, Mr. President. Last week, the United Nations reported that, during the month of July, when fighting in Juba surged, soldiers killed innocent civilians and raped women in broad daylight. The United Nations documented 217 cases of sexual violence between July 8 and July 25 in Juba alone. Those are the cases that are reported; the actual number is undoubtedly much, much higher. In a single incident on July 18, 16 women and 12 girls were reportedly raped by soldiers at an SPLA checkpoint in the capital. It is grotesque, and it must stop. Since July 7 alone, more than 69,000 people – the overwhelming majority of them women and children – have fled South Sudan for Uganda. Just since July 7. The status quo in South Sudan is unbearable. The status quo for UNMISS is unsustainable. Today, the Security Council has taken important action in support of calls from key regional partners to address this.
It is because of this horrific violence that South Sudan’s regional partners and the African Union have called on the Security Council to authorize urgently a Regional Protection Force. This resolution does that. In our deliberations, some members of this Council expressed concern that we were moving too quickly. The opposite is true. It has been more than one month since the IGAD Council of Ministers called for the “urgent revisions of the UNMISS mandate” with additional troops to secure Juba, a decision which the African Union Peace and Security Council endorsed the same day. On August 5, the IGAD Plus Heads of State and Government again called on the Security Council to “urgently extend the mission of UNMISS with a revised mandate,” including the deployment of a Regional Protection Force. This decision was endorsed, once again, by the African Union Peace and Security Council just yesterday. South Sudan’s neighbors have been clear about what this moment requires. And the resolution adopted today responds directly to these repeated and urgent calls.
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Further delays would not help those in Juba wondering if they can venture outside safely to find food. Further delays would not have helped those waiting for humanitarian aid that currently cannot arrive. Further delays would not have helped protect those who face extraordinary threats with each passing day. We consulted extensively with fellow Security Council members and countries in the region to shape this resolution. While we hoped to achieve unity on this vote, let’s be clear: we have had Security Council unity on UNMISS for some time and one only need look at what unity has achieved with respect to UNMISS’ ability to operate on the ground. UNMISS is facing daily threats, daily impediments, and daily – and sometimes deadly – challenges. Security Council unity has not solved that. Additional authorities and resources might. This Council simply could not wait any longer to give UNMISS the tools it needs to respond.
This resolution sets out three priorities for the 4,000-strong Regional Protection Force. First, the force will facilitate safe and free movement in the capital. Second, it will protect key facilities essential to the well-being of the people of Juba. And third, it will have the authority to prevent attacks against civilians, the United Nations, and humanitarian actors. Like the UNMISS troops already on the ground, this force will operate under a Chapter VII mandate, with the authority to use all necessary means to carry out its responsibilities.
The Regional Protection Force is part of UNMISS’s broader mission, whose core responsibilities include protecting civilians, monitoring human rights, facilitating conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and supporting the implementation of the peace agreement. We are grateful to the UNMISS troop contributors for the sacrifices they have made during this incredibly challenging period – and to the troops who serve in the mission, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Today, the Security Council has taken important action in support of calls from key regional partners to address this
The Regional Protection Force has been created in response to the collapse of security in Juba, and it will remain until South Sudan’s leaders take the steps necessary to provide that security for their own people.
Some Council members today will speak about the importance of obtaining the South Sudanese government’s consent. We recognize the importance of government cooperation. But the United States would point to the actions of the government. For while we expect the South Sudanese government to treat the United Nations like the partner that it is, that is simply not what is happening on the ground in South Sudan today. Instead, as we all know, the Government of South Sudan’s troops are actively blocking United Nations personnel from carrying out their lifesaving work – which in some cases has led to the death of UN peacekeepers. Those peacekeepers, including from countries represented on this Council – who were operating under a mandate adopted by this Council – could not be evacuated to receive urgent medical attention because the South Sudanese government would not provide flight clearances.
Consent is important, of course. And the Government of South Sudan – in dialogue with the heads of state of Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, and the presidential representatives of Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, and South Africa – the Government of South Sudan has offered its consent to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force in principle. But we must be clear-eyed about the challenges UNMISS and its new Regional Protection Force are up against. I appeal to all Security Council members – the ambassadors on this Council – to read the three-page letter that the Secretary-General sent to this Council a few days ago, setting out the severe restrictions by the Government of South Sudan which are crippling the mission’s ability to operate.
Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter confers on this Council the responsibility to take steps necessary to restore peace and security. This includes giving UNMISS the mandate it needs to protect civilians and maintain security in Juba. To suggest otherwise would mean negotiating a mandate with the same government that has consistently restricted the movement of those very peacekeepers, organized protests against those peacekeepers, and harassed humanitarian staff generally. This Council can only deliberate for so long about the terms of a mandate as the situation in South Sudan deteriorates, as more and more innocent people are killed, women and girls are raped, and the country’s neighbors call for action and express a readiness to respond. More time will amount to only more death and more suffering. This Council today has taken a step forward in our efforts to prevent that from happening.
The stakes are high and the consequences of continued obstruction should be clear. By this resolution, the Security Council has made very clear that if the Government of South Sudan obstructs the deployment of UNMISS’ Regional Protection Force, or continues to stand in the way of UNMISS carrying out its mandate, the Security Council is prepared to vote on the arms embargo resolution that is annexed to the text we adopted today. The United States is prepared to support imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan if this obstruction continues. If in 30 days the Secretary-General reports obstruction, this Council has decided to vote and we are confident that consequences will follow.
While this resolution marks a step toward addressing the violence in South Sudan, UNMISS alone cannot bring an end to the persistent struggle for power amongst the country’s leaders, which has caused the suffering of so many people. Until the leaders of South Sudan are willing to put what is good for their people before themselves – putting peace ahead of personal ambition and power – and until they show the will to find a political solution to this grinding conflict, the people of South Sudan will continue to suffer from the bloodshed and instability their leaders wreak.
Let me conclude with the account of a young South Sudanese woman – a 19-year-old named Betty Christian. Betty fled her home in Juba last month in the latest wave of violence. Betty told a reporter that as she fled her home, she had to pass by a group of soldiers, who debated whether or not to shoot her. Eventually, they decided to let her live. And so Betty thanked them. She thanked them for not killing her. That is the world in which so many of South Sudan’s people live today – they thank people for letting them live. Far too many people do not even get to do that.
Perhaps no other country has invested as much in South Sudan’s future as the United States of America. We share the desire of South Sudan’s people for a peaceful and prosperous future. But it is the actions of South Sudan’s leaders – their dangerous, deadly choices – that stand in the way of that future. When South Sudan’s leaders recommit to the cause of peace, they will find in the United States a steadfast partner. In the meantime, we will continue to seek a way to end the atrocities on the ground, so people like Betty Christian do not have to be thankful every time they are not killed.
Distributed by APO on behalf of U.S. Department of State.