Remarks by John Kelley, Political Counselor, at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in South Sudan

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December 13, 2022

Thank you, Mr. President. And I’d like to thank Special Representative Haysom and Ambassador Gituai for your briefings today. Ambassador Biang, we appreciate your update on the activities of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee.

The United States expresses our gratitude to the leadership of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the women and men of UNMISS, and the troop- and police-contributing countries who serve, under great personal risk, to protect civilians in South Sudan and mitigate conflict in many volatile areas.

South Sudan’s transitional leaders must deliver the results they committed to in the peace agreement and address immediate issues such as the ongoing violence in Upper Nile State and the dire humanitarian situation we just heard about from SRSG Haysom and Ambassador Gituai.

We are gravely concerned over the escalating sub-national and inter-communal violence including in Upper Nile and Jonglei States, which reportedly killed an estimated 500 civilians and displaced another 15,000 in Upper Nile alone.  It is abundantly clear that South Sudan’s leaders need to resolve this crisis.  We urgently call on South Sudan’s leaders to act now and end the violence.

We also urgently call on UNMISS to proactively deploy peacekeepers in hotspots in keeping with its mandate in order to protect civilians who are under threat of violence. Time is of the essence to prevent any further loss of life. Any attempt to obstruct the mission from providing life-saving work is unacceptable.

We are deeply disturbed by recent reports of human rights violations and abuses by Government and allied forces, particularly in Unity State, Upper Nile, and Jonglei.  We have heard about killings, abductions, and sexual violence, including, as we have tragically heard, the rape and gang rape of girls as young as 8 years old.

We strongly condemn all forms of conflict related sexual violence and sexual gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls, and call for immediate accountability.  Given the gravity of these crimes, we urge the Sanctions Committee to facilitate a briefing by the SRSG of Sexual Violence in Conflict, as is mandated in resolution 2633.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, it continues to worsen with each increasing year with 9.4 million people in need of aid.  We urgently call on South Sudanese officials to allow and facilitate the safe access and delivery of humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. We strongly encourage UNMISS to work closely with humanitarian workers to facilitate essential services and protection to civilians in need.

And on the political situation, we reiterate our disappointment with South Sudan leaders’ decision to extend the transitional period for another two years despite failing over the past four years to deliver fully on the commitments they made in the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.  Each missed implementation benchmark further calls into question the political commitment of South Sudan’s transitional leaders. We urge these leaders to meaningfully engage with civil society and other agreement stakeholders to make the transition to a more inclusive process.

It is critical that the region, through IGAD and the AU, play an active role in holding South Sudan’s transitional leaders to the commitments they have made. We call on IGAD, the AU, and the international community to press the transitional government to implement critical reforms to establish government institutions, implement economic and public financial management reforms, protect human rights, and maintain security.

With respect to the sanctions regime, we continue to reiterate that the arms embargo does not prevent the South Sudanese government from obtaining military equipment needed for defense nor impede its ability to undertake critical security sector reform. To the contrary, the arms embargo in South Sudan is carefully tailored to facilitate the government’s access to weapons necessary to provide security for its citizens. There is a clear exemption procedure that the South Sudanese government can follow to secure swift approval for any necessary supplies.  Furthermore, the provision of non-lethal military equipment for humanitarian or protective use only requires advance notification to the Committee.

The United States remains committed to the cause of peace and to the people of South Sudan. And I thank you, Mr. President.


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