16 Sep 2019

 

Near Verbatim Transcripts From VIPs Visit To South Sudan

"This visit is really timely because we want to build on the momentum and we wanted to show that the three organisations are together. And we hope that the parties also will be at the level of their responsibilities this time."

Near Verbatim Transcript
Media Briefing by the High-Level UN/ AU/ IGAD Joint Delegation
Saturday, 11 May 2019
 
Near Verbatim Transcripts From VIPs Visit To South Sudan Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, Mr. David Shearer: Good afternoon to all our Radio Miraya listeners. This is David Shearer, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, speaking to you today. And a special welcome to our people who are listening in and to the event of the visit of the high-level with representatives from the United Nations, the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
From the UN here, we have visiting with us the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, from the AU, the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ismail Chergui, and from the IGAD is the Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais.
We also have, with this delegation, the C5 grouping from the AU chaired by the Ambassador of South Africa in Addis, and also with him, the ambassadors from Chad, Algeria, Rwanda and Nigeria, who are also joining this high-level delegation.
They have made a special trip to South Sudan to demonstrate their united and full support for the peace process and to ensure that the revitalized agreement signed by the parties last September is fully implemented. As we all know, the visit comes at an important time in the process, after the IGAD Council of Ministers endorsed a unanimous decision by the parties to extend the pre-transitional period for a further six months. And that gives extra time to resolve the outstanding issues before a transitional government of national unity is formed in November.
As I have said many times on this programme, it is vital that we get in behind the agreement to ensure it is fully implemented. This visit is evidence, I think, of the strong commitment of the AU/UN/IGAD to do everything we can to make that happen. The agreement is not perfect – I don’t think there has ever been a peace agreement that has ever been perfect – but there is no Plan B. This is it. This is the Plan A and we all need to work together to make this agreement a reality.
With those very brief remarks, I would like to hand over to my colleagues to make some opening remarks and then I would welcome your questions to the panel we have in front of us.
Thank you very much again.
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix: Good afternoon. This is Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General of the UN for Peace Operations. Thank you, David, and a warm salute to all our listeners on Radio Miraya and a special salute to our colleagues from UNMISS who are doing a tremendous job here.
As David was saying, this is a visit that, first of all, is a demonstration of unity between the UN, the AU and the IGAD. And we made it clear to all whom we met with, starting with the President, the members of the Government and the members of all the committees in charge of implementing the agreement. We also met with women’s groups. We made it clear that we are totally united in support of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement. This is an agreement that we supported at the outset. And today, we recognize that the agreement has brought improvement, and particularly improvement regarding the security situation, with less violence and, therefore, more lives that were saved as a result of the agreement, and a stronger or greater capacity for our humanitarian colleagues, to whom I want to pay tribute as well, to deliver the much needed humanitarian assistance.
But there is much more to do. There are pending issues, very important ones, and there is also this humanitarian situation which is still very critical in the country.
So, our purpose is to be supportive so that the next six-month after this extension of the pre-transitional period will be used to generate substantial advances in the implementation of the peace agreement, in the improvement of the lives of millions and millions of South Sudanese. We stated our joint commitment to be supportive, not only in words but also in very concrete terms with practical support, with whatever funding our organization could either provide or could encourage others to provide. And we also agreed that this is very much a collective undertaking. The presence today of the ambassadors of the C5 group is also extremely important as a very strong symbol of our unity.
I will stop here and my brother, Commissioner Chergui, will, I think, continue.
AU Commissioner for Peace & Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui: Thank you very much, Jean-Pierre, I want to join David and yourself in thanking UNMISS and also our representation here in Juba in organizing this visit, together with the IGAD Special Envoy and my dear ambassadors representing the C5 all together to demonstrate unity of purpose, unity of determination, unity also in our resolve to make the parties to this revitalized agreement now be at the level of what their people are expecting from them in terms of implementing each and every article of this agreement in total honesty. I think that we are, after this visit which comes after the one we undertook last October – Jean-Pierre and myself – we are rather encouraged by the fact that the cessation of hostilities is holding and that, overall, though the humanitarian situation is still appalling, but the humanitarians are doing a much easier work than before.
We wanted also to say quite clearly that this extension should be the last one. We are expecting the parties now to do every effort possible, every sacrifice, so that we have the transitional government in place next November.
Secondly, we appreciate the fact that the Government has now devoted USD$100 million to the implementation process. This, I hope, will allow the other partners and friends of South Sudan to open up and really join the efforts in also financing the peace process.
Thirdly, we also wanted to indicate that the issues of justice are very important. Here, we renewed our call for what the Peace and Security Council has approached, that is healing, reconciliation and justice. All this has to happen. And we also recalled to the authorities here that we are ready to sign immediately the memorandum of understanding related to the hybrid court. We want it as soon as possible in place. 
The other issue which is also very serious is the issue of gender-related violence. As much as we say that all the organisations here cannot tolerate such behavior, we want to thank David and his team for pushing forward the process in helping the Government to create the mobile gender-based violence courts. This is one of the solutions, but it is not the main solution. But we are expecting from all the commanders on the ground and all the authorities to make sure that this issue is taken very seriously and that those who are committing the crimes are brought to justice.
So, in a nutshell, this visit is really timely because we want to build on the momentum and we wanted to show that the three organisations are together. And we hope that the parties also will be at the level of their responsibilities this time.
Thank you.
IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, Dr. Ismail Wais: Good afternoon. This is Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy.
Well, the moving together of the IGAD, AU and UN is not, in fact, for the first time. It is a well established cooperation. It shows and demonstrates to the people of South Sudan that the three institutions are cooperating and are very serious about this peace process in South Sudan.
This week, South Sudan has witnessed a series of activities. The first one was the meeting of the political parties of South Sudan in Addis Ababa, where they have unanimously decided to extend the pre-transitional period for six months. A very wise decision which, in fact, gives the whole process a new momentum and the chance to implement all the provisions of this agreement.
It also witnessed the presence of the IGAD Council of Ministers meeting here in Juba in the last three days – on the 7th and 8th - that also endorsed the decision of the political parties and the extension of the pre-transitional period by six months.
Now, again, we witness the coming of the AU and the UN together to Juba, which also shows, in fact, a very strong support to the people of South Sudan.
Rest assured that these three institutions will do everything possible to cooperate with the rest of the international community to mobilise the necessary support for this peace process.
We have a lot to do and a long way to go. We are not at the end of the process. In fact, we are starting with very challenging activities. But the cooperation we are hearing from others, including the AU and the UN and the presence of the C5 member-states is very promising and will indeed bring this process forward. We still urge the political parties, the mechanisms, also to do the rest at their level best to implement this process so that at least the people of South Sudan deserve what they really earned and that is, at least, peace in this country.
Thank you very much.
SRSG Shearer: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, and because of the flight schedules and the need to get off quickly, we are going to have to have a very short time for questions. But please can I ask the journalists here who would like to ask a question to the panel to do so.
VoA: Thank you. My name is Waakhe from the Voice of America (VoA). My first question is that the parties say that the major challenge to the implementation of the peace deal has been resources. With the extension by six months of the pre-transitional period, is the UN ready to pump in funding? Perhaps in which area?
My last question goes to Special Envoy Ismail Wais. You are the mediator of the South Sudan peace talks. What has been the major problem that has hindered implementation of the peace deal? Is it the lack of resources or lack of the political will from the parties?
Thank you.
AP: Hi, Sam from the Associated Press. I guess this question is for the Special Envoy and the Commissioner. What would be any different in this six-month extension than we have already seen in the past eight months? There is a lot of talk about there is an extension but that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will have changed.
The other question is that some people have talked about having a third-party protection force come in instead of having a unified army to speed-up the process. I was wondering of your thoughts on that.
USG Lacroix: Thank you very much. I think when we talk about taking forward and supporting the implementation of the agreement, everything is linked. For the key provisions of the agreement, particularly for the security arrangement, there has to be further work done in preparing the process because it includes, not only, cantonment, but it includes many other things, moving forward – training, reintegration, building what ultimately will be a reconfigured South Sudanese security force. For that, there is a need for capacity building and expertise and this is what we are prepared to do, and this is what we are already doing and IGAD’s decision to take that forward very quickly with the holding of the workshop, I think, is very important. And the UN is also preparing to provide expertise.
I think it is clear that there is also a need for additional funding. This has to come on a voluntary basis by the partners of South Sudan. Some countries have already come forward, others should come forward, but I think that the more preparatory work advances, I think the more likely other donors might be willing to support that process. I think everything is linked … taking forward the good work that is undertaken now and reaching out to partners so that they support with concrete assistance – financial, material assistance and, again, expertise, is very much interlinked.
And just to pick up on your question, I believe that there are many things that have to be taken forward in the next six months. I think it is important to recognize what the revitalized peace agreement has brought, which is a significant decrease in violence and that means a lot. And a number of things have also been done in putting together the key mechanisms that are tasked with implementing the agreement and monitoring implementation. But clearly there is a need to move on the critical issues and some strategic decisions will have to be made ultimately by the parties at the highest level.
But this is what we came here for: to convey the message that these six months really need to be put to the best use and that we are really committed to support that so that we don’t end up six months from now with having to, again, decide whether they will have another postponement or not. That wouldn’t be a good outcome at all.
Commissioner Chergui: In addition to what Jean-Pierre said, I think we are lacking many things in this process. First is confidence between the parties and we have to work on that during the six months. Second is the lack of capacity of institutions of this country - the lack of expertise – and we hope that we will be working to fill the gaps, mainly on the first issue that I indicated.
And here, it would help me to respond to your second question.
If then we have a better relation between the parties, and mainly between the President and Dr. Riek Machar, I don’t think we will need additional VIP force to come in to the country because, I think, President Salva Kiir is ready to assure the security of Dr. Riek Machar. So, it is very important and vital that we work on this issue of building the trust between the parties and this will have a very good impact on the implementation of the peace agreement.
Special Envoy Wais: I think the question which was posed to me is already answered by my two colleagues. But just to repeat, everything is interlinked, and we have capacity gaps as well as funding gaps. We also have gaps of expertise and in the last one week, we had a lot of promises from the IGAD Member-States to support the mechanisms here in Juba also in these aspects. So, the willingness of the members was there to provide experts from their own institutions to assist the mechanisms with this expertise.
Also, we could assure the support of the C5 member-states that they would also like to provide in-kind support for some of the activities. We all know that, for example in South Sudan, the economy itself is very weak. We don’t have the production of food or medicine, and these have to come from outside. Members have promised to provide in-kind support also for some of the cantonment sites in the country.
With all that support plus the USD$100 million pledged from the Government, we are now very confident that we can run the permanent ceasefire and security arrangements in this country.
Thank you.
AP: On that USD$100 million, the Government did commit money during the initial phase, I think it was USD$10 million, and I think it took a lot of time for that to arrive … if it did. There is speculation that this USD$100 million doesn’t exist, and if it does exist that it will also not be availed. What happens if it is not?
Special Envoy Wais: As you can imagine, honestly, we don’t want to participate in speculation. The Government paid the USD$10 million plus one from Japan, that is clear and it is a fact. We met the President today and yesterday and one of our questions is, in fact, to make available this resource as soon as possible. And the reasoning is simple: the security mechanisms were meeting yesterday and today, and they will be meeting up to the end of the 18th here in Juba. When the results are there, we would like to move very quickly and implement the security arrangements. And we told the President that the resources should be ready by then.
As I said, we don’t want to participate in speculation. We believe what the Government is saying and what the President said and that he would stand up to his word and we will see what happens when it comes to the time.
MBC: Emmanuel Tombe from the MBC. I have two questions. One is that in the last eight months, the parties have failed to implement the peace agreement. They have now extended to a further six months. What is the guarantee … if the parties fail to implement the agreement in the next six months, what is the process forward?
Number two: Dr. Machar is supposed to be here in Juba tomorrow. What preparations are there for his arrival and what are the guarantees?
USG Lacroix: Thank you. What is important is to do our best so that things will improve and that the implementation of the peace agreement will be taken forward. This is not the moment to speculate failure. This is the moment to work together. And of course, the primary responsibility lies with the South Sudanese themselves and primarily with the parties and, in particular, with the leaders. That is clear. We want to be supportive, we want to be helpful to the South Sudanese to make the right decisions, to help with the technical assistance, capacity building, material and financial support. This is what we are here for. And, of course, political support to make sure that whatever good decisions will be made will be adequately supported and that there will be encouragement from the international community.
Regarding your second question, as we said before, we do believe that there are critical decisions that ultimately can only be made by the highest leadership of the parties. And, therefore, as my brother Commissioner Chergui was saying earlier, it is important that both His Excellency President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar should be able to address those questions face to face. We are supportive of that and we definitely hope that such meetings will occur so as to generate the kind of strategic advances that are needed in that process.
SRSG Shearer: Just coming back on your point, I think it was a very good question. What has been interesting over the last few months is that we have had a lot of the opposition, well nearly all of the opposition groups, moving around Juba very freely, attending meetings without any problems. That has built a lot of trust and confidence and I believe that trust and confidence that’s been built over the last few weeks was one of the reasons why the unanimous decision was made in Addis last week that they were able to go forward together.
One of the things that the United Nations pushed and was picked up by others was the need for President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to have similar discussions together so that they can build that trust and confidence as well. That was picked up and is part of the resolution that was confirmed by the IGAD Council of Ministers this week.
So, I think there is some good advance there and, as Smail Chergui said, ultimately it all falls on trust and confidence between the parties. If that trust and confidence can be built, then there is nothing we can’t do in terms of moving the peace process forward.
AP: This is a question about the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site. I am wondering what the plan is for them and if the current state of what’s happening with the extension of the peace deal, if that makes you more cautious about what those plans may be?
One other question is that there has been increased military presence in Juba in the past couple of days. People have attributed it to different things, one of them being potential protests next week, although no one is really sure. Just wondering what your message would be for the Government if people do come out and protest.
USG Lacroix: For your first question, I think, whatever the conditions are, we hope that internally displaced persons and those who are in the PoC camps will be able to return to their homes. And in fact, I think the Mission has observed in a few cases that there is an increasing number of persons returning to their homes but still it’s a relatively limited number. And there is also planning going on in certain locations, I think Malakal, to sort of prepare or take a look at whether the conditions are there for IDPs to return or at least to see what would be those conditions. This is definitely an important objective. At the same time, returns should take place when these conditions are met and particularly, they have to be voluntary. People need to be able to return to their home, they need to be able to return to safety, they need to be able to return to the community that would be at peace and where they would be in a position to resume their normal life. And that has to be prepared and of course it depends a lot on the further improvement of the security, the building of trust – it all boils down to that – and therefore depends a lot on further progress in the implementation of the revitalized agreement.
I think I would leave the second question to David – you are here all the time; I am not …
SRSG Shearer: Just to build on what Jean-Pierre was saying, about the PoCs. I think people seem to forget about the ceasefire that has happened with the peace agreement. When you look back at how many people were dying in conflict, now with the peace agreement that is not happening – the political violence. There is other cattle-related violence that is going on but not political violence. And that is giving people more confidence and we have seen people start to move back to their homes as they feel it is safer.
The big issue that we face is that people living in the PoC are not wanting to go back to their homes as they don’t have services in their homes, as the services are not there – schools aren’t there, health facilities aren’t there. In some ways, it is becoming less an issue of security and more an issue of services that people want to move to and why some people are staying in the POcs because they get education for their children there.
Now the big challenge for us is to move out and get those services in the surrounding areas so that people will feel not only confident to go back because of security but also because they can get the same opportunities for their families., And I feel very strongly that those people who do want to go back and, as Jean-Pierre said voluntarily, if they want to leave, that we should provide the support for them to go home because I think it is important that they don’t get condemned to a PoC camp when they want to go back and restart their lives.
With regards to the military presence, yes, we have observed this as well. There were some people on the streets, I think it was Thursday and Friday. I have checked with the Government and they were telling me that it is a practice of a drill that was ongoing. So, I can’t comment more than what they have told us but, obviously, the presence of the military – large numbers of the military – on the ground and in the city is not necessarily a comforting thing and can also be a disturbing thing. I pointed out that just to remember that people like to move around freely and the presence sometimes of military makes people more anxious than less anxious and that should perhaps reflect.

I think what we might do is call it quits. I just want to say once thank you very much to our Radio Miraya listeners who are listening in today. I hope you have a good weekend. All the very best and, as I said before, it has been a fantastic opportunity to have the three organisations here with us today – Ambassador Chergui, who had to leave for his flight just a couple of minutes ago, and Ambassador Wais as well who was here, but also to have with me my colleague and the head of the UN Peace Operations in New York, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. It was a great opportunity to have you here and thank you very much for making the time to come to South Sudan and to provide that support and that solidarity from the three organisations in getting behind the peace agreement. I very much appreciate it, so thank you very much. 

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