South Sudan: Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union

© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Germany, Berlin - 19.01.2020: The picture shows Josep Borrell leaving the room.© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Germany, Berlin - 19.01.2020: The picture shows Josep Borrell leaving the room.

One year after the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, the EU takes positive note of recent announcements on transitional justice and the nomination of some of the local governments. Yet, too little progress has taken place and instability persists. The EU expects the South Sudanese Government to pursue and accelerate the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

The humanitarian situation remains critical and an immediate system-wide scale-up of the humanitarian response led by the UN is needed. Parts of the country are facing famine likely conditions, and a dire food crisis is predicted over the coming months, affecting more than 60% of the population. This situation is triggered and exacerbated by high levels of violence in large parts of the country, which is often politically motivated. All efforts must be made to assist the population and protect civilians from violence and human rights violations and abuses. 

It is essential for all actors to guarantee full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, in compliance with International Humanitarian Law; to protect humanitarian workers and resources from attacks, threats and lootings; and to remove formal and informal bureaucratic obstructions, including numerous fees and taxes. These impediments are delaying life-saving emergency assistance and are reducing the impact of the funds available for helping those in need. 

A rapid implementation of the Security Arrangements of the Peace Agreement is paramount. It requires the urgent formation of the Necessary Unified Forces with a clear and inclusive chain of command. Measures must be taken to prevent and deter any further military defections from one armed side to the other, which are often accompanied by violence against civilians and violations of the ceasefire. 

It is crucial that the foundations are laid for the future elections that will mark the end of the transitional period. Human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of association are continuously under pressure and threat, and continue to be violated and abused. Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread. All responsible, including leaders of the security apparatus whose direct or indirect responsibility in these acts is mentioned in several UN reports, must be held accountable. The continuing impunity for human rights violations and abuses is a threat to peace in South Sudan. In this regard, the EU welcomes the Government’s decision to initiate the implementation of the transitional justice provisions of the Peace Agreement, including the Hybrid Court, and urges to proceed without delay. 

Other essential components of the inclusive governance foreseen by the Peace Agreement are still to be formed, notably the Revitalized Parliament, and subnational cabinets and assemblies. The 35% minimum quota for women’s participation in governance needs to be respected. 

The EU underlines importance of supporting the activities of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) to fully implement their mandates. In this regard, the EU deplores that essential activities for the monitoring of the ceasefire and the protection of civilians by UNMISS and CTSAMVM remain obstructed and made more difficult as a result of denials of access, in the majority of cases by the Government. The EU takes note of some recent efforts by the Government to comply with the Status of Forces Agreement it has concluded with the UN, in particular reducing access restrictions while also expressing concern over the continuing violations of the agreement documented by the UN Secretary-General. The EU urges the Government to take further steps and fully comply with the Status of Forces Agreement. 

The EU supports the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its member states in their leading role in the South Sudan peace process, and invites them, as well as all members for the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, to an even more proactive engagement, in order to encourage all political actors in South Sudan to fully implement the Peace Agreement. Sub-regional security depends on peace in South Sudan. The EU also commends the African Union for its support towards the implementation of the transitional justice aspects of the Peace Agreement. 

Decision-makers in South Sudan can and should do more to fulfil their promises of peace and development and to address the socioeconomic, political and environmental challenges of the country and its people. The EU remains committed to assist the South Sudanese people to fulfil their aspiration for peace and prosperity and to build a stable and democratic South Sudan. If necessary, the EU will take restrictive measures against persons obstructing the political process in South Sudan, including by acts of violence or violations of ceasefire agreements, or against persons responsible for serious violations or abuses of human rights. 

The EU reaffirms its readiness to deepen its partnership with South Sudan, including through a possible Mutual Accountability Framework on future cooperation with international partners. For such a Framework to be viable, reforms outlined in the Peace Agreement must be undertaken. In particular, reforms which enhance public financial management, transparency and accountability, particularly in the oil sector, make the justice sector more effective, launch the work on the permanent constitution and ensure basic social services’ delivery and necessary space for civil society. 

The EU reaffirms its support to the people of South Sudan who courageously battle the hardships of food insecurity, floods, epidemic outbreaks and widespread violence. The EU will continue to strengthen resilience of local populations and provide life-saving humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable, including internally displaced and refugees, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.