The U.N. Security Council reaffirmed its readiness Wednesday to take measures against spoilers to the peace process in South Sudan, and those who abuse civilians and attack peacekeepers.
“We discussed the need for all parties to the conflict to participate with full commitment to the cease-fire and the peace process, and to form the transitional government — which is now overdue — without delay,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who heads the council this month.
Speaking in her national capacity, Power said both government and opposition must demonstrate more commitment and more political will to ensure the deal does not unravel.
“The South Sudan peace process is at a critical juncture,” U.N. Peacekeeping Chief Hervé Ladsous told the council.
He said progress implementing the August 26 peace plan has been slow and hampered by “serious difficulties,” noting repeated violations of the cease-fire agreement by both sides, particularly in Unity State. Ladsous said these violations have caused significant losses of civilian life, displaced people and worsened the humanitarian crisis.
What it will take
The United Nations has a force of nearly 13,000 troops and police in South Sudan. The peacekeeping chief said an additional 1,100 are required to provide security, but that will not be enough.
“No amount of troops or police can replace the political will required of the leaders of South Sudan to bring an end to their conflict,” said Ladsous.
The Security Council must decide by December 15 on changes to the force’s current mandate in order to better help it support implementation of the peace plan and protect civilians.
South Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Francis Deng reiterated President Kiir’s commitment to implementing the accord. He noted that the government has started withdrawing its forces to 25 kilometers outside the capital, Juba, as called for in the agreement.
Nearly two years of fighting between supporters of Kiir and his former vice president turned political rival Riek Machar have displaced more than 2.3 million people. That includes nearly 180,000 civilians uprooted by the violence who are sheltering at six U.N. bases across the country.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 4 million South Sudanese are food insecure. The situation is especially bad in volatile Unity State, where some 30,000 people are at risk of famine if humanitarian agencies are not given immediate access to assist them.
When fighting resumed in Unity in early October, aid workers were threatened and their compounds looted. At least one aid worker was killed in the fighting, forcing humanitarian agencies to relocate their staffs. The U.N. says that since violence erupted two years ago, at least 41 aid workers have been killed.
In a recent report on South Sudan, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that deep divisions among communities and the “high levels of brutality” that have characterized the current political crisis, could lead to a pattern of revenge killings and increased inter-communal violence during the transition period.