Peace in South Sudan would only be sustainable through a fair and inclusive revitalized peace agreement that would take the root causes of the conflict into account, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council, as members of the 15-nation organ cautiously welcomed the rapprochement between the country’s President and former First Vice-President.
Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “While the outcome of regional and international efforts to deliver a political settlement is yet unclear, I must reiterate that peace will only be sustained if the revitalized agreement is inclusive, fair, addresses the root causes of the conflict and engages all stakeholders, including women and youth.”
Briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on South Sudan, she said the last two weeks had seen a flurry of activity, including meetings between President Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Riek Machar in Addis Ababa and Khartoum, amid ongoing efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to broker a lasting peace with support from the African Union and United Nations.
The Council took up the question of South Sudan — including its humanitarian aspects — the day after President Kiir and former Mr. Machar signed a framework agreement for future discussions, and before the President was expected to decree a fresh nationwide ceasefire.
Ms. Keita described regional engagement and the face-to-face meetings between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as positive developments, while cautioning that peace would not be achieved or sustained merely on the basis of a deal between the two leaders. She emphasized that the Council must give its constant support and engagement to ensure that all stakeholders understood that the international community would support a peaceful South Sudan, and that there would be consequences for those who kept fuelling the conflict.
In the ensuing debate, Council members voiced cautious optimism while reiterating their concerns over the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which, according to the report, had produced record levels of hunger and malnutrition, with 1.75 million people on the brink of catastrophe and 7 million people facing severe food insecurity by the end of July unless they got sustained assistance.
Speakers also strongly condemned the killing of a UNMISS peacekeeper from Bangladesh during an attack on a convoy delivering humanitarian aid in Central Equatoria State on 26 June, and called upon the Government of South Sudan to help identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The representative of Ethiopia, whose Prime Minister is the Chair of IGAD, said the coming days would be very critical, with President Kiir and Mr. Machar expected to meet again in Nairobi and key IGAD and African Union meetings taking place on the margins. Urging the Council to throw its weight behind those efforts, he said that whatever few gains had been made must be preserved, and that it was absolutely important for IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations to work together at the present critical juncture.
Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate condemned repeated violations of a 21 December 2017 cessation-of-hostilities agreement. He called on the belligerents to end the fighting, expressed alarm over inter-ethnic violence, and encouraged the Government to do more to ensure security. Describing the humanitarian situation as one of the worst in the world, he condemned attacks on aid workers.
South Sudan’s representative said the “light at the end of the tunnel was brighter” than it had been on 31 May, when the Security Council, adopting resolution 2418 (2018), renewed for 45 days the sanctions it had imposed in 2015 on those blocking peace in South Sudan, with the option of considering further measures — including an arms embargo — if the fighting continued or in the absence of a viable political agreement. “While the document signed [in Khartoum] is a framework for peace, we are optimistic that a final peace agreement will be concluded in the very near future,” he said, adding that President Kiir would shortly decree a ceasefire. He also emphasized that the Security Council must be seen to be throwing its full support behind the IGAD peace process, rather than dishing out blame and punishment whenever there was a setback.