July 17th, 2015 14:54 EST
UN: Will to Achieve Peace Tangible in South Sudan
The outlook on the situation in South Sudan is not completely bleak, today said an United Nations senior official in Juba, as he heard the phrase we want peace now " everywhere he went in the country.
It is important for us to use this time now to make this phrase a reality, " said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in the country, Moustapha SoumarÃ©, who decried continuing fighting that had resulted in increased numbers of internally displaced persons.
Speaking to the press, he said he had repeatedly heard in different meetings, at all levels, and during extensive travels in the different states of the country, since he arrived four months ago, the phrase we want peace now ".
Noting concerns that warring parties were yet to sign a peace agreement, he mentioned some recent positive steps like the return of some former political detainees and continuing efforts by the international community to support peace negotiations.
The message is how we can move forward, as the President Salva Kiir said in his speech during independence celebrations, " he stressed. We hope that the next step will come soon. "
Mr. SoumarÃ© also emphasized that the crisis could only be solved by South Sudanese themselves, although the international community would continue to support them.
It is clear that the humanitarian situation is still dire, " he said. The more fighting there is, the more displacement. For that to stop, the fighting has to stop and there has to be a peace accord. "
The Deputy Special representative explained that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was not directly involved in negotiations, but would have a role to play in implementing a peace agreement, if one was signed.
Currently, the mission`s mandate is still limited to protecting civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights, creating conditions for delivery of humanitarian assistance and supporting implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, he said.
What is really important to remember is that UNMISS is really engaging the government to ensure that we can implement our mandate effectively, " he said. Although we have more than 160,000 displaced persons, we have to engage the government to create conditions where they "can voluntarily return to their homes. "
M. SoumarÃ© listed some challenges the Mission faces in carrying out its work, such as restriction of patrols and lack of flight safety assurance sometimes.
Protection of civilians is not just for those living on UNMISS sites, but also in places outside, " he stressed. Sometimes, the ability to do this in those places is impeded by restrictions, he stressed, nonetheless reiterating the Mission`s willingness to continue to work with the government.
We might not always have the same views, but we have to sit, discuss, agree and work on the things on which we disagree, " he said. Political dialogue with the government is key. "
In that regard, the DSRSG described the revocation of a decision to expel the UNMISS Unity State Coordinator May Cummins from the state as a very encouraging " measure and an example of a positive outcome of engaging government both at the local and national levels. "
The security situation in South Sudan has deteriorated steadily over the past year since political in-fighting between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, and their respective factions erupted in December 2013. The hostilities subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict, resulting in reported atrocities and possible war crimes.
According to the latest estimates released by the UN refugee agency, more than 730,000 people have fled into neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, which has seen the highest arrival rate this year. Meanwhile, another 1.5 million remain internally displaced, often relocated to increasingly overcrowded `protection-of-civilians` sites run by UNMISS.
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