Ethiopia: UN official addresses AU PSC on alarming situation in South Sudan

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - To pull South Sudan back from the abyss and from a growing famine, the international community must collectively focus energies on achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities, among other objectives outlined on Friday by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan.

David Shearer mentioned the other three objectives as demanding unrestricted humanitarian access; restoring the credibility of the peace process by ensuring the representation and consultation of all South Sudanese stakeholders; and establishment of the Hybrid Court.

He said the peace process should include the opposition and civil society in the proposed National Dialogue and for it to be led independently.

Addressing the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union(AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Shearer said the United Nations maintains its partnership with the AU "to advance peace, security, human rights, as well as social and economic development on the continent, particularly in South Sudan."

"The situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate and generate profound human suffering for the population of that country – suffering in which local and ethnic divisions have been exploited for political ends," he told the Council.

"Conflict is apparent across the country. Virtually no part of the country is immune," said Shearer, noting that in recent weeks there has been an escalation of fighting in Equatoria and Upper Nile regions which led to significant and additional displacement of civilians.

According to the UN, displacement of populations in the Equatorias has serious implications for the country as a whole as it is considered the food basket of South Sudan where it is possible to harvest two crops a year.

FAO estimates the loss of 100,000 metric tonnes of locally produced food because of insecurity or because farmers have simply fled. This food was once traded with other parts of the country and is integral to the nation’s economy.

Each month of this year, more than 60,000 people from the Equatorias have sought refuge in Uganda.

Shearer said that full-scale military operations by the SPLA against opposition forces and other armed actors have typically resulted in torching of houses, looting of shops and almost invariably the rape and killing of civilians

According to the SRSG, efforts of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have saved the lives of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese.

Currently, UNMISS  has a broad presence across the country, with 12,000 peacekeeping troops, 2,000 police and more than 2,000 civilian personnel present in more than 15 different locations.

Giving the PSC a descriptive picture of the situation in South Sudan, Shearer said that intense fighting in the Upper Nile in February, including the reported use of heavy artillery and attack helicopters, led to the town of Wau Shilluk being taken by SPLA forces, which then proceeded further south.

"Wau Shilluk is now deserted and analysis from satellite imagery shows that approximately 40 per cent of the town’s structures are destroyed," he said, regretting that UNMISS patrol was only able to gain access in early March, following weeks of denial by the Government of South Sudan.

Approximately, 27,000 people have fled the area northwards towards the town of Kodok where aid agencies have provided minimal support.

Shearer said that the declaration of famine on 20 February 2017 is the latest evidence of the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan, where an estimated 100,000 people are facing starvation, a further 1 million others classified as being on the brink of famine and 5.5 million may be severely food insecure by August 2017.

"This crisis is entirely man-made, the result of conflict, unlike the drought that faces other countries in the region," he affirmed.

He cited the famine areas of Leer and Mayendit counties in former Unity State, where three years of conflict have eroded people's basic livelihood, preventing farming and harvesting, while cattle have been looted on a large scale and local economies have collapsed.

"As it has been emphasised many times before, there are repeated denials to access areas to both humanitarian organisations and UNMISS even in the face of such enormous suffering," Shearer regretted. "I am alarmed at the lack of any response to the plight of these from South Sudanese leaders of all sides."

Stressing that every effort must be made to end the cycle of impunity in South Sudan, Shearer said the AU holds an important role with the establishment of its Hybrid Court as well as providing support to national authorities to establish credible and independent national judicial mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable.
-0- PANA AR 17March2017

17 march 2017 19:12:02

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