27 September 2014 – Following a failed coup by a former deputy that sparked a violent, months-long conflict in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir told the United Nations today that his Government is deeply committed to “talk peace with the rebels to close this dark chapter in the history of our young country”, so the difficult mission of socio-economic development could begin.
In his address to the General Assembly’s annual debate, President Kiir said Member States had no doubt watched in shock and disbelief as fighting erupted last December, “which was plotted by my former Vice-President [Reik Macahar] who wanted to seize power by force”.
“He was too impatient in his thirst for power and did not want to wait for the general elections, which were scheduled to take place in 2015…The failed coup and the rebellion that followed resulted in the loss of too many innocent lives, destruction of properties, and damage of community relationships.
However, the coup was foiled, and the Government is continuing to defend the country and the people against the ensuing rebellion. Mr. Kiir thanked the UN, African Union (AU) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the entire international community for their prompt action to restore peace and stability in the country.
Telling the Assembly that he was committed to sitting down with the rebels to hammer out a way forward, Mr. Kiir said such a path would allow South Sudan to “embark on the difficult mission of socio-economic development, which our people urgently need.” With the dedicated efforts of IGAD mediators, the sides had been able to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement, but while his Government remains committed to its implementation, “the rebels have violated [it] too many times,” and refused to sign a protocol deal (agreed in May) .
“I urge the international community to exert efforts on the rebels to sign the protocol agreement,” he said. As for the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses that have occurred in the wake of the “failed coup and the rebellion”, Mr. Kiir said his Government has ordered an investigation into the abuses and has agreed to cooperate with the AU commission of inquiry. “We are determined to hold those who will be found responsible accountable, as we do not condone impunity under any circumstances,” he said.
Clarifying that the conflict in South Sudan “is purely a struggle for power – not an ethnic conflict as reported,” Mr. Kiir said citizens displaced by the conflict, especially in the three states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile, are innocent victims of the conflict that urgently need and deserve humanitarian assistance.
As for neighbouring Sudan, Mr. Kirr said the conflicts within the two countries tend to be interrelated, and as such, his Government would exert more efforts to bolster relations with Khartoum.
“Our oil flows through the Sudan,” he continued, noting that in the spirit of cooperation, South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will soon commence more joint visits with his Sudanese counterpart to donor countries, to appeal and lobby for lifting and waiving Sudan’s foreign debt, as it was agreed in the Cooperation Agreements. As for outstanding issues associated with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), especially the final status of Abyei, he said the two countries are working through these issues as part of the African Union High Implementation Panel mediation and our other partners to find amicable peaceful solution.
On collaboration with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Mr. Kirr said that while such collaboration will continue, he was very concerned regarding recent adjustments to the operation’s mandate that have very serious implications in service delivery to the people of South Sudan. He noted in particular that the new mandate does not allow UNMISS to support requests from national, state and local partners for assistance in important activities connected with capacity building, peace-building, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, security sector reforms, recovery and development.
“Notwithstanding the fact [such] activities…are of paramount importance to South Sudan, we strongly believe the main objective of UNMISS was to support peace and reconciliation in the first place,’ He said, humbly requesting the UN Security Council to reconsider this decision when the renewal of UNMISS mandate comes up in November 2024.
On the same note, he further urged UNMISS to engage in reorientation of its activities related to its mandate to civilian protection, to shift from ‘protection-by-presence’ to ‘protection-by-action’ and to encourage those in UNMISS camps to return to their homes. “UNMISS needs to protect the civilians in their neighbourhoods and not in camps in a huge country like ours, which is bigger than the size of France,” said President Kiir.