South Sudan: UN officials call for international engagement to de-escalate country’s conflict

Women and children have suffered devastating attacks in South Sudan’s Unity State. Photo: UNICEF/South Sudan/Sebastian Rich

Women and children have suffered devastating attacks in South Sudan’s Unity State. Photo: UNICEF/South Sudan/Sebastian Rich

South Sudan, 29 May 2015 – As South Sudan’s civil conflict continues to escalate, five senior United Nations officials have urged all stakeholders in the country to reach a sustainable solution to the crisis through inclusive dialogue and foster a lasting peace based on accountability and reconciliation.

“We are appalled at the large scale, widespread nature of the violations and abuses reported, including extra judicial killings, the abduction of women and children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, recruitment and use of children, looting and destruction of property,” UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng and the UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh declared in a joint statement released yesterday evening.

“The fighting has exacerbated an already dire economic and humanitarian situation by reducing the humanitarian space, thus depriving thousands of South Sudanese of essential humanitarian assistance.”

South Sudan’s ongoing conflict began in December 2013 and has been marked by brutal violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country. Some 119,000 people are sheltered in UN compounds there while the Organization estimates that the number of people in need for 2015 will include an anticipated 1.95 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and a projected 293,000 refugees.

In recent weeks, however, the fighting in the country has worsened considerably with reports of widespread killings, rapes, abductions and the burning and destruction of towns and villages, particularly throughout South Sudan’s Unity state.

In addition, UN human rights monitors have been denied access to various sites in the State by members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/A) as they sought to verify the reports.

The five UN officials reminded all parties on the ground of their responsibilities, in line with international law, to ensure the full protection of the civilian population, especially women and children, from violence and to spare them the effects of hostilities, while also urging the UN Security Council, African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and neighbouring countries to facilitate the process of de-escalation. Women, as leaders and agents of change, must also be represented in peace talks, they added, and women’s groups must be fully consulted in the process.

“It is the collective responsibility of the international community to take decisive steps to end the protracted suffering of the South Sudanese people, especially the women and children who are disproportionately affected by the recent clashes,” they continued.

In other news, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of Eugene Owusu of Ghana as his Deputy Special Representative in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where he will also serve as UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He will succeed Toby Lanzer of the United Kingdom, who will be taking up the post of Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel region. The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Lanzer’s dedicated service with the United Nations in the Republic of South Sudan.