Dispatches from the Field: Council Members Arrive in Juba, South Sudan
The Security Council delegation began its visiting mission to South Sudan late this afternoon with a press briefing at the Juba airport for local and international journalists. Abdun Agau, the Secretary General of the Government of South Sudan, welcomed the Council before remarks were made by the co-leaders of the delegation, Ambassador Samantha Power of the US and Ambassador Fode Seck of Senegal, outlining the purpose of the visit.
Ambassador Power said that the Council was unified in its desire to see peace in South Sudan, and for the people of the country to benefit from security and live in dignity. However, she said that a substantial improvement in the relationship between the government and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was needed. She hoped that the visiting mission would contribute to this. She noted the enormous operational difficulties faced by the mission. Obstructions to the operations of UNMISS had hindered the mission’s ability to protect civilians and to assist with the delivery of humanitarian aid. Furthermore, Power expressed the Council’s alarm at violence against civilians, including killings, sexual violence targeting both the local population and international staff, and attacks on peacekeepers.
With regard to accountability, Power stressed that the Council wanted to engage the government during the visit regarding the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, which was an element of the August 2015 peace agreement. She argued that while impunity persisted for attacks on civilians and the blockage of humanitarian aid, lasting peace would be difficult to achieve in South Sudan.
Power underscored the importance of rapidly deploying the Regional Protection Force, authorised by Security Council resolution 2304. She said the Force would play a key role in enhancing security and protecting civilians. Noting that the Council was pleased that the government had given its agreement to the deployment of the Force “in principle,” she added that it was critical that the Force be deployed quickly, given the dire security and humanitarian situation in the country. Power noted that resolution 2304 states that the Council will consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, if there are impediments to making the Force operational; however, she hoped that the government would accept the Force as something that was in the interests of the people of South Sudan before such measures had to be considered.
Ambassador Seck also spoke about the envisioned Regional Protection Force. He said that during the negotiations on resolution 2304, the African members of the Council – Angola and Egypt, in addition to Senegal – engaged with civil society, humanitarian organisations, and key UN actors. He said that respecting national sovereignty is critical for the African Council members, noting that the resolution makes it clear that the Force is to be deployed in collaboration with the government. He said that it is in this spirit of cooperation that the Council has made the visit to South Sudan, referencing as an example of progress the dialogue that has already occurred between government officials from South Sudan and the Chiefs of Defence Staff of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the Force. (IGAD and the AU both called for the deployment of a regional protection force in communiqués on 5 and 11 August). Seck emphasised that the Force is a “protection” force, not an “intervention” force, a point also made by Power.
Tomorrow (3 September) the Council continues its visiting mission in Juba with meetings with civil society and key government officials.