By Amb. Mary Catherine (Molly) Phee,
U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan.
Oct 22, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– The United States welcomes the convening of this plenary session, and endorses the Chairman’s balanced and constructive statement.
The events of July, and the subsequent deterioration in the country triggered by the fighting, is deeply distressing to old friends of South Sudan like the United States. I am not sure it is possible for me to fully express the profound disappointment and loss of confidence felt by the leaders and people of my country. Frustration with the poor decisions that culminated in the battles of July and despair at the appalling aftermath have deeply shaken our bilateral relationship.
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We do not believe the violence that erupted last July was inevitable. The leaders of both the government and the armed opposition failed to seize the opportunity offered by the peace agreement to put down their weapons and resume the task of building this young country, a vital task that was first disrupted in 2013. Many of us in this room worked very hard to create the conditions for a second chance, for a new start. We now share in the disappointment felt by the people of South Sudan.
I will tell you frankly that we have seriously questioned continued U.S. diplomatic and financial support for the peace agreement. As the Chairman said, the peace agreement is “undoubtedly compromised and partially derailed.” Both sides have abandoned the permanent ceasefire and continue to fight today. Citizens on both sides are being targeted and attacked, a direct violation of international law. There are irresponsible calls for a return to armed conflict, which we condemn and reject. The Transitional Government of National Unity is no longer fully representative. There has been at best a minimal effort to undertake the reforms called for in the agreement. It is a bitter reality.
Nonetheless, we have concluded that the peace agreement remains the only house standing for the stakeholders of the agreement. It is a place for them to gather and begin the difficult and lengthy process of finding their way back to the principle of conducting the contest for political power through a political process, rather than through the barrel of a gun. It is a place for them to launch a national conversation about a new constitution that promotes the rule of law and the balance of power; a new army that protects not harms all of the country’s citizens; a new system of public financial management that ensures the nation’s wealth is put into development rather than in someone’s pocket or used to buy more guns; a national discussion on reconciliation and healing; and a court to break the cycle of impunity that enslaves South Sudan.
In summary, if the stakeholders are serious about implementing the peace agreement, then we will be serious about supporting them. To test the seriousness of the stakeholders, we will be closely focused on two primary indicators:
1. The status of the ceasefire. Will the government and armed opposition halt hostilities? Will the government accept deployment of the Regional Protection Force to help restore a secure and neutral environment in Juba?
2. The status of the TGoNU. Will the sitting government make a credible effort to include opposition parties and independent and critical voices?
It is important to note the linkage between these two indicators. If the sitting government fails to invite into the political process the country’s diverse communities, many of whom have legitimate concerns about marginalization, discrimination, and oppression, then many in those communities will conclude violence is the only path to achieve their political goals.
I would also like to pause and emphasize the gravity and seriousness of this moment. In recent weeks, we have seen an alarming increase in rumors, misinformation and disinformation. Much of this chatter is dangerously reckless, colored by fear and insecurity rooted in ethnic identity. Ethnic prejudice has already led to violence in Equatoria and Aweil and could spread out of control. We urge all South Sudanese leaders, including religious, civil, and business leaders, to do everything they can to restore calm, to remind your communities of the many historic ties that bind them together, and to begin taking the steps necessary to come together as South Sudanese.
Finally, I want to quote Secretary of State John Kerry, who traveled to Nairobi in August to consult with his IGAD Foreign Minister counterparts and to meet a high-level delegation from South Sudan in an effort to promote peace.
At that time, Secretary Kerry announced a new tranche of U.S. financial support for humanitarian assistance. The current total of U.S. aid to South Sudan is $1.7 billion, which has been used to provide food, water, medicine and other essential goods to those in need as a result of this conflict. It is a staggering number, which reflects the scale of suffering. On the question of the peace agreement, Secretary Kerry said the following:
“The overriding need in South Sudan is to re-invigorate an inclusive political process and to implement the reforms that are set out in the peace agreement, so that this young country can stand up its economy, create effective security institutions, and bring an end to the sectarian division and fighting. And every neighbor in the region is demanding the same thing. The leaders of South Sudan have to live up to their responsibilities. They have to put the interests of their citizens first, and they have to refrain from violent and provocative acts. And the time has come to replace confrontation and impunity with reconciliation and accountability, and the Foreign Minister from South Sudan and the delegation here today committed that they understand that that indeed has to happen.”
Mr. Chairman, I know we all share the hope that these steps will at long last be taken. Thank you.