As Situation Deteriorates in South Sudan, Secretary-General Urges Security Council to Impose Arms Embargo, Calls for Reinvigorated Political Process

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Security Council session on South Sudan, today:

Before proceeding, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the Russian delegation following the assassination of their colleague, Ambassador Andrey Karlov, in Ankara earlier today.  I condemn this senseless act of terror, for which there can be no justification.

We are here to address one of the world’s most urgent crises:  the deteriorating situation South Sudan.  Not long ago, the people of South Sudan were riding a wave of optimism.  Africa’s longest civil war had ended.  The world’s youngest nation was born.

Yet today, all of that hope and promise has disappeared.  South Sudan is engulfed in yet another civil war.  Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed.  The country’s economy is in ruins.  The social fabric is in tatters.  Millions of people are homeless and displaced.  Hunger and poverty have only deepened.

The responsibility for this tragic state of affairs lies squarely on the shoulders of South Sudan’s leaders.  They have betrayed the public trust and continue to show a perverse sense of entitlement, seeking to retain power and wealth at all costs.  Reports suggest that President Salva Kiir and his loyalists are contemplating a new military offensive in the coming days against the [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] SPLM in Opposition.  Moreover, there are clear indications that Riek Machar and other opposition groups are pursuing a military escalation.

It is time to put the people of South Sudan, and not its leaders, at the forefront of any strategy.  The international community must come together to provide the necessary help and incentives.  At the same time, we should be united and determined in following through with severe consequences for those who impede the path to peace and stability.

In that spirit, I reiterate my call for an arms embargo on South Sudan.  Such an embargo would diminish the capacity of all sides to wage war.  South Sudan faces no external threat.  More weapons will only pose a greater threat to its own people.  We have repeatedly seen the deliberate targeting of civilian communities perceived to support an opposing side.  As efforts to revive the political process continue, the least we can do is stop the flow of more weapons which pose a direct threat to the safety and security of civilians and humanitarian workers.

Instability in South Sudan is also a threat to the region.  I call on all the neighbouring countries to support and cooperate on an arms embargo.  The most urgent need is to prevent the parties from launching any military operation with the beginning of the dry season.  I urge the Security Council, regional leaders and the international community to make it clear to President Kiir and Riek Machar that initiation of a military offensive will carry serious consequences.

The parties must reinvigorate an inclusive political process that is deemed credible by the people of South Sudan and the international community.  Any attempt to rubberstamp the legitimacy of those in power will not bring peace or stability.  An inclusive and credible process requires all parties to the conflict to have a seat at the negotiating table with the ability to share and exercise power without fear of reprisals.

A national dialogue could be a positive step if all stakeholders are able to participate with freedom and in safety.  Unfortunately, that environment does not currently exist in South Sudan.  I call on regional leaders to invest all possible efforts to resuscitate the political process in South Sudan.  I commend the work of [the Intergovernmental Authority on Development] IGAD and the African Union and call upon the Security Council to complement these efforts.

I strongly believe that an arms embargo is the most appropriate way to do so.  Such a step, I should emphasize, will strengthen and not undermine the political process.  The conflict in South Sudan has already assumed an ethnic dimension.  We have witnessed hate speech from many in leadership positions.  As my Special Envoy for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng said to the Council after his recent visit to South Sudan, genocide is not one event, it is a process.

I am afraid that process is about to begin unless immediate action is taken.  The Security Council must take steps to stem the flow of arms to South Sudan, as well as send a clear warning that hate speech, incitement and violence must end, and that there will be accountability for mass atrocities and other crimes.

As you are aware, after two independent investigations, I have had to take some difficult decisions regarding the performance of our troops and Mission in South Sudan.  Moreover, [the United Nations Mission in South Sudan] UNMISS continues to face serious restrictions on its freedom of movement throughout the country, in clear violation of the status of forces agreement.

The Secretariat has been providing the Security Council with a list of these violations on a monthly basis.  Unfortunately, these reports have not resulted in any action from the Council to restore the freedom of movement without which the Mission is unable to fully implement its mandate.

But, an improvement of the Mission’s performance is only one part of the picture.  The Government of South Sudan should also fulfil its pledges of unconditional acceptance of the deployment of the Regional Protection Force or RPF.  Words alone are insufficient.  They must be matched by practical actions that demonstrate a strategic shift to fully cooperate with the United Nations and all partners for peace.

I spoke with President [Uhuru] Kenyatta of Kenya on Saturday to exchange views on the South Sudan peace process.  I emphasized that the RPF represents the collective commitment of the region to peace, security and stability.  I would like to commend Kenya for its unwavering commitment to peace in South Sudan and for working closely with the United Nations to meet this goal.

The people of South Sudan have suffered far too much, for far too long.  We must put all pressure on leaders who think or act otherwise.  If we fail to act, South Sudan will be on a trajectory towards mass atrocities.  Its people will be the target of those atrocities while they pin their hopes on the international community in general and the Security Council.  I appeal to the Security Council to act, to act now, in fulfilment of its responsibility and in support of ongoing regional efforts.  Thank you, Mr. President.

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