The members of the Security Council expressed grave alarm and concern regarding the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan resulting from the political dispute among the country’s political leaders which threatens serious implications for the long-term security and stability of South Sudan, as well as for the neighboring countries and other peace and security challenges in the region.
The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the fighting and targeted violence against civilians and specific ethnic and other communities occurring across the country that have resulted in hundreds of deaths and casualties, and tens of thousands of internally displaced persons. The members of the Security Council stressed the necessity for all parties to reject this violence in all its forms and to resolve disagreements peacefully, and called on President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to demonstrate leadership in bringing a swift and peaceful resolution to this crisis by calling for a cessation of hostilities and immediately commencing a dialogue. They called on all parties to protect detainees. They also further encouraged all South Sudan’s leaders, political and military, to engage in a political process of national reconciliation and constitutional reform through peaceful and inclusive means, underpinned by respect for the rule of law.
The members of the Security Council called on all relevant States and organizations to use their influence with South Sudan’s political leaders to bring about an end to the violence and initiate reconciliation.
In this regard, the members of the Security Council welcomed the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Ministerial Group’s swift initiative, as supported by the United Nations and African Union, in seeking to open the dialogue and mediate between key leaders. They strongly urged all parties to cooperate with this initiative.
The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack on an UNMISS camp in Akobo, on 19 December, which resulted in the death of two Indian peacekeepers and the wounding of another as well as at least 20 other causalities of individuals seeking UNMISS protection. The members of the Security Council expressed their condolences to the families of those peacekeepers killed in the attack, as well as to the Government of India, and to UNMISS, and called on the Government of South Sudan to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. They also stressed that intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission deployed in accordance with the Charter of the UN, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict, may amount to a crime under international law.
The members of the Council condemned reported human rights violations and abuses by all parties, including armed groups and national security forces, and emphasized that those responsible for any violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be held accountable.
The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern regarding attacks on civilians and the increasing number of displaced persons, and called on all parties to allow and expedite the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian organizations and the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need, while respecting the UN guiding principles of humanitarian assistance. They strongly condemned the attacks on oil installations, which resulted in heavy loss of life of oil workers, and called upon all parties to ensure the security of economic infrastructures and the safety of the employees.
The members of the Security Council commended the active steps taken by the UNMISS to implement its mandate and other humanitarian agencies that have given refuge in their premises and other forms of assistance to the civilians caught in the fighting. They encouraged UNMISS to continue to implement fully its mandate, in particular the protection of civilians, and called on South Sudanese authorities to provide their full support and assistance in this regard. They also emphasized that efforts to undermine UNMISS’s ability to implement its mandate will not be tolerated and urged all parties to cooperate fully with UNMISS.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan. They appealed to the principal leaders concerned to live up to their individual responsibilities to the people of South Sudan and to do everything possible to fulfill the aspirations of its people.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their intention to continue to follow the situation closely and to take additional steps as necessary.
The meeting started with a briefing by Mr. Mulet. There are a lot of elements which are not clear: the country has the size of Spain, the infrastructures are very limited and we have there only 4,000 fighting soldiers, to which you have to add the enablers.
We have some information about the main incident in Akobo. Some civilians of Dinka origin had taken refuge in the UNMISS camp. Around 2,000 youth with heavy weapons attacked the camp, which led to two fatalities among the Indian peacekeepers and one injured. We don’t know what happened to the 36 people who took refuge in the camp. For the moment we believe that at least 20 of them were killed. It could be the 36 of them. We don’t have all the information. We are organizing now the evacuation of the peacekeepers from Akobo.
In Bor, 14,000 civilians have taken refuge in the camp held by an Indian company. There is heavy fighting around the camp. The last information is that a few thousand armed youth are gathering around the camp. So the situation is very unstable there.
In Pibor, 1,500 civilians have taken refuge in the UNMISS camp. And there are incidents everywhere.
As for the oil facilities, they have been raided and apparently the Dinka employees have been killed. I referred to that in the Security Council declaration.
So apparently 20,000 civilians took refuge in the two UNMISS camps in Juba, 10,000 and 10,000. We have 14,000 in Bor and 1,500 in Pibor. So for the moment, the UNMISS is directly protecting 35,000 civilians.
We have numerous reports of human rights violations and ethnic targeting. The government estimate was that at least 500 people have been killed in Juba. The situation is pretty difficult and tense. There are a lot of things that we don’t know. Now we have to look at what we can do.
It is a political crisis within the leadership of the SPLM. Beyond the political crisis there is the powder keg related to the ethnic question. The political crisis could lead to a general and political civil war if we do not solve it very quickly through dialogue. All the Council expressed its strong support to the IGAD mediation, which is led by Ministers of Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia. They actually are in Juba as well as Haile Menkerios, the UN Special Representative in Addis Ababa. During the Council meeting, we received information saying that the President as well as the widow of John Garang have apparently accepted to enter into an unconditional dialogue.
Eleven political detainees have been arrested. For the moment, we did not have access to them. But apparently, the IGAD delegation will have access to the detainees tomorrow.
The situation is very much in flux and we may have meetings of the Security Council in the coming days, on the basis of the situation on the ground. The French Presidency of the Council will be ready at any moment and any day to organize new meetings.
I cannot answer all technical and detailed questions about the situation on the ground. First because a lot of things are not known yet, and secondly because we have to ask the Secretariat who is following the situation permanently. They have put in place a crisis cell. They have a video conference every day and they communicate permanently with the mission. Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative, is engaged with all the parties, as emphasized by Edmond Mulet.
Q: What more information was given about the situation in Bor? Is there any information about how many armed youth are gathering around the base there and whether the peacekeepers are trying to protect them ?
I told you everything I know. In Bor, we have 14.000 civilians in the camp. There is only one Indian company. Five km away, there is a Bangladeshi company. There was heavy fighting in the city, some firing around the UNMIS camp, but it’s information from 2 hours ago. Apparently, there were 2000 or 3000 people with weapons who were close to the camp. There was worry about what they were going to do, since it would be exactly the same scenario as what happened in Akobo, where 2000 people rushed into the camp. Among the refugees, there are also some administrative leaders who took refuge, some of them being also of Dinka origin.
Q: On Jonglei, was there any discussion of the UN? They said they were seeking to pull out 40 peacekeepers from a camp called Yuai. I’m wondering what’s the fate of the civilians there? And in Rupkona, soldiers loyal to Salva Kiir are said to be sheltering with the UN ?
The situation in Rupkona has not been raised. In Yuai, I don’t have any references on civilians there, we have to ask the Secretariat. In Yuai, they tried to extract the UN personnel. It’s one of the UN missions were the civilian component is the most numerous. So it’s not only a question of soldiers, but also of civilians, UN agencies and NGOs. France had concerns about two French NGO representatives in Nakobo, who have been evacuated. We tried to extract these people from Yuai. The helicopter came but they were obliged immediately to leave because they were firing.
The UN is not apparently intentionally targeted but to quote Mr. Mulet “the UN is on the way” of the fighters.
Q: In the oil rich region, you mentioned something about raids. Do you know who is in control at the moment? Is there any oil operation going on at the moment?
I don’t have the information. The best way is to ask the Secretariat for all these very precise information.
There are 4/5 states which are very worrying: Upper Nile, Unity, Lakes, Jonglei, and I think I am forgetting one. There are a lot of tensions around a city called Bentiu, in Unity, which are linked to the oil installations.
Q: Last year the UN peacekeepers were able to defend the people when they were targeted. What is the difference in the situation? And to prevent a situation like in former Yugoslavia where people believed the UN could protect them and then realized when it was too late that the UN could not protect them, what does the Security Council intend to do?
What happened in Akobo is that 2,000 people with heavy weapons rushed and attacked the camp where you had an Indian company. The UN peacekeepers were overwhelmed. The question is not whether they have the blue helmet or no. In any country when you are 100 and that you are attacked by 2,000, there is no question about the result. That is the reason why we are so concerned about Bor too. The country is half million km square and we have 4,000 fighting soldiers. All these soldiers, because the situation was calm and because we asked the mission to do it, are scattered all over the country and in small elements. Suddenly we are facing a totally new situation with a massive threat. So we have to adjust our dispositive which means that we have, in particular, to bring soldiers from the quiet zones to the dangerous ones.
There is always the disproportion between the UN peacekeepers: the number, the equipment… and the threat. Here, the situation has dramatically changed over night.
Q: Did you talk about the fact that you should send more soldiers?
Q: What options did you discuss for Security Council action in the event the dialogue fails and the situation deteriorates further? Was today a general briefing on what the situation is?
For the moment, it was an assessment meeting, where we are. Our hope is that the IGAD mediation team will succeed in opening a political dialogue. Because the question is not the number of soldiers. On such territory you would need half a million of soldiers. The question is what we have in terms of soldiers, their equipment and, considering the threat, how we can defend, especially the people who have taken refuge in our camps. The instructions are very clear: these peacekeepers can use force, the mission is under chapter VII, and the protection of civilians is the core of the mission.
But let’s hope in the coming hours that the IGAD mission, which is working right now, succeeds to open a channel with Machar. Let’s hope also that if there is a political settlement it is not too late, that the powder keg has not exploded.
The Security Council remains seized of the situation. We can meet whenever it is necessary.