— Hilde Johnson announced Friday she will be stepping down as the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) when her contract expires in July.
“I informed the President (Salva Kiir) that by Independence Day in July, I will have completed my three years as Special Representative, which is much more than usual for an SRSG in a peacekeeping mission of this nature, and in particular with the crisis that we’ve gone through,” Johnson told reporters.
Johnson did not take any questions and declined to say why she was leaving or whether she was given the option of renewing her contract.
“It’s been a real honor to serve and I will still be here for a few weeks," Johnson said.
"South Sudan really has a strong place in my heart and will continue to have that,” she said.
The announcement came just days after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to extend UNMISS’s mandate by six months.
South Sudan really has a strong place in my heart and will continue to have that.
The resolution also changed UNMISS’s focus from consolidating peace and promoting state and economic development in the young nation to protecting civilians and ending the violence.
UNMISS officials declined to say when Johnson's replacement would be named.
Officials in the ministries of information and foreign affairs, and in the office of the president, said they were not authorized to comment on Johnson’s announcement.
The government will release an official statement once they have received formal notification of Johnson’s decision to leave, they said.
The government has been critical of UNMISS in recent months, but especially since fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid-December.
Around a month into the conflict, Kiir accused UNMISS of attempting to run a parallel government, stopping short of naming Johnson as "co-president." He quickly backed away from the remarks.
During an anti-U.N. demonstration in Juba in March, protesters carried signs bearing Johnson’s image, accusing her of killing the people of South Sudan and siding with the opposition in the conflict.
Those protests followed the discovery by South Sudan security officials of weapons in an overland UNMISS convoy. The Mission is prohibited from carrying weapons by land and called it an unfortunate mistake. Protesters accused UNMISS of attempting to arm opposition forces, a charge UN officials have vehemently denied.