Ahead of a meeting with the United Nations Security Council tomorrow on South Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the body to impose an immediate arms embargo, enact additional targeted sanctions on leaders and commanders blocking implementation of the peace deal, and to fortify the UN mission in the country, which has seen a resurgence of deadly violence in recent days.
“This is the time to massively reinforce UN action. When a Government cannot or will not protect its people, and when warring parties seem more intent on enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of their people, the international community has a responsibility to act,” the Secretary-General told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today.
“I call on the Security Council and the entire membership of the United Nations to rise to this moment and protect the human rights of South Sudanese,” he added.
Over the weekend, Mr. Ban, along with the Council and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) condemned the deadly violence and urged calm in the wake fresh clashes in Juba between soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition.
Expressing his deep condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have been killed in the fighting in the capital city of Juba over the past four days, Mr. Ban condemned the killing of two Chinese peacekeepers and one UN national staff member.
Renewed violence ‘another grievous setback’
“The renewed violence is outrageous. It is yet another grievous setback. It deepens the country’s suffering. It makes a mockery of commitments to peace,” the UN chief said, adding that there are growing fears that many more people could die in another round of violence.
Despite the August 2015 peace agreement that formally ended the war – which began in late 2013 after a simmering political face-off between President Salva Kiir and his then former Vice-President Riek Machar boiled over – conflict and instability has spread to previously unaffected areas in the Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr-El-Ghazal regions of South Sudan. This past month, deadly clashes in Wau resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people, while up to 35,000 fled their homes. Such fighting is characteristic of the trend that produced fresh refugee outflows this year, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said this past Friday.
The events in Juba come shortly after escalation of conflict in other parts of the country in recent weeks, disrupting lives and livelihoods. In Wau, where fighting has displaced at least 70,000 people since the end of June, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it is working around the clock, together with partners, to provide assistance to children and their families.
In his remarks Monday, the Secretary-General said he is appalled by the “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and peacekeepers, noting that the two compounds of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Juba have been caught in the cross-fire and sustained mortar and heavy artillery fire.
At least two internally displaced persons have been killed in the UNMISS protection of civilians sites (PoC), and some 35 people have been injured, while thousands of civilians have fled to various locations in town, including the two compounds.
South Sudan’s leaders have failed young nation ‘yet again’
“Yet again, the leaders of South Sudan have failed their people. Rarely has a country squandered so much promise, so quickly,” Mr. Ban said, also asking: “What kind of leadership is it that resorts to deadly weapons and identity politics, time and again? Failed leadership.”
The Secretary-General emphasized that his message to President Kiir and First Vice-President Machar is clear: “Do everything in your power to de-escalate the hostilities immediately. Order your respective forces to withdraw to their bases,” he said.
“Let me underscore, again, to all those leading and perpetrating these hostilities that acts of violence perpetrated against civilians and United Nations and humanitarian personnel, assets and premises may constitute a war crime,” he added.
Noting that there must and will be accountability for the atrocities that have been committed in South Sudan since 2013, the Secretary-General said that it is not just the leaders who must “face a reckoning,” but all those in the chain of command.
Furthermore, Mr. Ban said that while he understood that President Kiir had issued an order to the SPLA last night to stop fighting, hostilities continue today and have spread to parts outside of Juba in Central Equatoria.
UN mission ‘doing all it can’ to contain volatile situation
UNMISS, for its part, is doing all it can to contain a very volatile situation, by conducting patrols within and immediately outside the protection of civilians sites. The Mission has also reinforced perimeter security to enhance protection for internally displaced people and UN staff at its two compounds, the UN chief said.