23 March 2017 - Violence and famine in South Sudan: action needed [fr]
South Sudan - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Ministerial Meeting of the Security Council - 23 March 2017
I would like to begin by welcoming the presence of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom at today’s meeting, as well as the initiative taken by the British presidency to organize this meeting on South Sudan.
I would also like to thank the speakers for their briefings. In particular, I commend the Secretary-General for the strength of his personal commitment to South Sudan. France fully subscribes to the priorities he has just outlined and fully supports him in his efforts to promote a return to peace and stability in that deeply scarred country.
After three years of conflict, the situation in South Sudan remains a serious source of concern. Famine is now added to the violence, atrocities and human rights violations that have been endured by the people of South Sudan for far too long, and to a large extent it is a result of those other problems.
We cannot and should not remain inactive in the face of this situation. We should pursue three objectives.
1/. First, priority should be given to a cessation of hostilities and access to vulnerable populations.
The responsibility rests with all of the parties to the conflict and, first and foremost, with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition. They must finally respect the multiple ceasefire agreements that they have reached and that they violate constantly. The emergence of militias and the expansion of the combat zones make that first step all the more essential.
The cessation of hostilities must be accompanied by an immediate end to the obstructions that have been inflicted on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and humanitarian actors. The attacks, violence, harassment and looting to which the Blue Helmets and humanitarian actors fall victim are contrary to international humanitarian law. We salute the courage and dedication of those men and women in their tireless efforts to help the most vulnerable. The Council must be ready to impose sanctions on all who engage in such attacks against them.
We also strongly regret that the protection and assistance efforts of both UNMISS and humanitarian personnel have been subject to access restrictions and bureaucratic barriers. The Government of South Sudan must make every effort to put an end to such obstructions and to facilitate these people’s work.
Only progress on those two fronts — an end to violence and the facilitation of humanitarian access — will make it possible to establish an environment conducive to peaceful political dialogue.
2/. My second point is about the implementation of a political settlement, which is the only possible long-term solution to the country’s challenges.
In that respect, we know the terms of the political solution, for they are contained in the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan of August 2015. That document provides a comprehensive and detailed road map that must be implemented in order to restore security and stability in the country. In that regard, we welcome the work of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) under the leadership of President Mogae. It is essential to continue to monitor the peace agreement and to firmly remind the Transitional Government of National Unity — itself the result of the Agreement — and all other South Sudanese stakeholders of their responsibilities.
Again, it is unacceptable that those who have committed to implementing those measures do not respect their word.
In that context, following the example of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union, the Council must recall its expectations regarding the implementation of the measures provided for in the peace agreement, including and perhaps primarily in the field of security.
We therefore welcome the continued engagement of IGAD and the African Union, in full coordination with the United Nations. The mission entrusted to President Alpha Konaré to advance the implementation of the peace agreement and to promote the inclusiveness of the national dialogue is essential in that regard. We call on all parties to work with him to that end. Any national dialogue would be in vain, even counterproductive, if it detracted from the implementation of the peace agreement and was not fully inclusive and conducted so as to assure its autonomy, its impartiality and the trust of all participants.
In that regard, I would like to recall that France is of the view that instituting an arms embargo would improve the prospects for a political solution. By restricting access to weapons used to commit abuses against civilians, an embargo would help to lower the level of violence and foster an environment conducive to peaceful political dialogue.
3/. Thirdly and lastly, we must remember that the cycle of violence and suffering can be broken only if real progress is made in the areas of justice and accountability.
As Ms. Sunday said, women have suffered disproportionately in this conflict. The use of rape as a weapon of war, which has been abundantly documented by the United Nations, the African Union and civil-society organizations, may constitute a war crime or even a crime against humanity. Violence against children and the recruitment of child soldiers are equally revolting violations.
Faced with the current inadequacies in the efforts to combat impunity in South Sudan, we must remind the perpetrators of those crimes that they will be held to account. We can help to prevent such crimes by considering the punishment of those who commit or order them. We should also support judicial accountability efforts. Again, the peace agreement provides for mechanisms to that end, including the establishment of a hybrid court. We call for progress in that direction and reiterate our encouragement for the work of the African Union along those lines. If there is no improvement in this area, violence and human rights violations will only be repeated in South Sudan again and again.
Let us be realistic. The tragedy in South Sudan may yet worsen. But if the parties assume their responsibilities and the Council remains fully mobilized, that does not have to be a foregone conclusion.