As South Sudan marks its second anniversary of independence, the top UN envoy there commended progress made so far while also noting the many challenges still facing the young nation.
These include tackling insecurity, addressing human rights violations and strengthening public institutions, Hilde F Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan), said.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July 2011, six years after the signing of the peace agreement ending decades of warfare between north and south. Over the past two years UNMISS has been assisting the country in consolidating peace and security and helping establish conditions for development.
“Many of us witnessed the outpouring of euphoria that greeted the dawn of independence of South Sudan. The mood of that day now seems like a fading memory,” Johnson told the Security Council in a briefing via video-link from the capital, Juba.
“We have since seen many setbacks and problems and tensions with Sudan driving decisions that were challenged by many, including this Council,” she added.
Progress to date includes improved relations with Sudan, internal dialogue with armed groups and a renewed commitment to advancing national reconciliation. At the same time a key challenge is the security situation in Jonglei state where fighting between Government forces and armed groups has displaced thousands since January.
“The deterioration in the security situation in parts of South Sudan has been accompanied by human rights violations by armed groups and national security institutions. National and state authorities are struggling to translate their commitments to improve respect for human rights into action,” according to her.
“Cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, abuse and incidences of killings by security forces, as well as the inability of authorities to hold those responsible to account, are cause for deep concern.”
Echoing the call made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest report on South Sudan, Johnson urged Government to establish effective, long-term strategies to address the underlying causes of violence.
UNMISS continued to support government efforts to seek political solutions to inter-communal conflict and peace initiatives aimed at durable solutions to disputes over scarce natural resources.
“UNMISS is encouraging local authorities, community leaders and national figures to reinforce efforts to foster reconciliation. It is also essential for national and state authorities and communities to take the lead and assume full ownership of such processes.”
The key determinant for developments in South Sudan, she said, remains its relations with Sudan. Noting setbacks such as counter-accusations by both sides of military support to rebel groups in each other’s territories and the threat by Sudan to shut down the oil pipeline, Johnson said both countries should strengthen their co-operation towards peaceful coexistence.
Wrapping up a visit to South Sudan, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said challenges facing the country could not all be solved at once, but UNMISS was working to support it in becoming a modern State with working institutions and full respect for human rights.