UNMISS CHIEF URGES ‘VOLUNTARY RETURN’ OF DISPLACED
Created on Thursday, 11 December 2014 18:13
11 December 2014 – (radiotamazuj.org – 11 Dec.) – Ellen Margrethe Loej, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), gave the following address at a press conference today in Juba, South Sudan. She said that the UN ‘protection sites’ should only be temporary and noted that UN peacekeepers will work closely with South Sudanese police to encourage people to return to certain abandoned neighborhoods of Juba.
Ellen Margrethe Loej:
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen of the Press. It is a great pleasure to see you here today when I’m holding the second Press Conference since my assumption of duties in September. It has been a little over three months, now, since I officially assumed my duties as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan.
When I accepted this position, I knew the challenges awaiting me as head of the UN peacekeeping mission would be daunting. But, nothing quite prepared me for the enormous suffering endured by the people of South Sudan on a daily basis since this brutal, man-made and thus ultimately avoidable conflict erupted on the streets of this city one year ago.
In the history of UN peacekeeping operations, the past 12 months will be remembered as the time when UNMISS opened its bases to civilians facing a threat of physical violence. I am convinced that many lives were saved by this action.
But, it is important to remember that these so called Protection-of-civilians sites on UNMISS bases were always envisioned as temporary solutions to protect civilians in imminent danger of physical violence. It was not and is not supposed to become permanent settlements.
Therefore, we need to focus more on fostering a safe and secure environment outside the UN camps. An environment that will enable internally displaced persons to leave the UNMISS compounds and start their lives anew – all on a voluntary basis.
We recently closed down one of our compound in the Lakes State capital of Rumbek after finding alternative living arrangements for the civilians who were still sheltered at that location.
Furthermore, all services to the protection site in Tomping will be halted at the end of this month, and we hope that the remaining population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will either go back home or relocate to a similar site near the Yei Road where over 10,000 IDPs have already moved in recent months.
While we – the UN family at large – will do our best to foster and promote safe returns of IDP’s we should never forget that the ultimate responsibility for protection of civilians remains with the Government including its national security forces, the SPLA and the South Sudan National Police Service. It is first and foremost their responsibility to provide security to the citizens of their country.
In this connection, the Mission will work closely with the South Sudan National Police Service to support its pilot programme to encourage IDPs living in our Juba protection sites to return to three specific neighborhoods in the national capital.
Furthermore, and most importantly, the protection of civilians, which is the core of the Mission’s mandate, is much more than protection of civilians in our camps – it is about protection of civilians wherever the need is. Let us not forget that while around 100.000 have sought refuge in UN camps around 1.5 million are internally displaced throughout the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, as part of its mandate, the Mission will continue to undertake the monitoring and reporting on human rights violations. We recognize that accountability remains a key issue in South Sudan. A legacy of impunity for serious human rights violations in the past has contributed to the current crisis. This legacy must stop. And, stop now.
I also wish to highlight the work of the Mission on conflict mitigations resolution at the grassroots level. Our colleagues in the field continue to engage in conflict mitigation efforts with communities throughout South Sudan and especially in Warrap and Lakes states, where inter-communal violence fuelled by the desire for revenge is affecting the lives of many in particular women and children.
I am pleased to report that a much-feared famine was averted in South Sudan. But the overall humanitarian situation remains dire: an estimated 1.5 million people are already experiencing crisis and emergency phases of food insecurity, and that figure could rise to 2.5 million in the coming weeks and months. The number of South Sudanese who will be targeted for humanitarian aid next year is expected to surpass the four million mark.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, the mandate of the mission was recently renewed and remains unchanged from the previous one. I believe it is fair to say that its member-states were sending both of the warring parties a clear message when the Council voted to streamline UNMISS operations earlier this year. The patience of the international community with both parties is wearing thin, and their leaders must inject a new sense of urgency into the peace process in order to reach a comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible.
The armed opposition is holding a consultative conference on the peace process in the Upper Nile State community of Pagak this week. Once that meeting has ended, we sincerely hope that representatives of both parties at the IGAD-sponsored peace talks will return to the negotiating table with a heightened sense of responsibility and openness to compromise that can bring the talks to a swift and successful conclusion. During my first press conference and in my engagement with South Sudanese, I have promised to go to the field as much as possible in order to see things first hand and to also interact not only with my staff but very importantly also with the local population and authorities. Regrettably, I have only managed to visit 4 States up to now but I promise to visit all ten States in the New Year.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, as we approach the grim, almost one year, anniversary of the conflict in South Sudan, I think we can all agree that it has been a tough and challenging year. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank UNMISS peacekeepers and staff members of all the UN agencies, funds and programmes all NGOs and other related organizations operating in South Sudan for their courage, hard work and selfless sacrifice.
One of the South Sudanese personalities I met yesterday expressed the hope that South Sudanese can be presented with the best X-mas gift ever: Peace. I hope that this comes through for all of us here in South Sudan and in particular for the suffering people I have met in all the areas I have so far visited. Thank you very much!