The world will be watching to see that the commitments expressed by South Sudan’s leader last week before the General Assembly are translated into action, from the way the country manages its security and respects human rights to promoting transparency and good governance, the United Nations envoy to the country said today.
Hilde F. Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, told a news conference in the capital, Juba, that President Salva Kiir’s address on behalf of the newest Member State was “the right message at the right time.”
She said it included a commitment by the county to peaceful relations with Sudan, from which it gained independence in a UN-backed referendum earlier this year, as well as to establish a solid foundation for the new nation, based on political pluralism, good governance, transparency and accountability.
“We need to remember that the eyes of the world now are on South Sudan,” said Ms. Johnson. “The management of these critical processes and the political milestones will be important for South Sudan’s standing internationally.”
She commended the President for the steps he is taking in particular to end impunity against financial misconduct and to promote transparency and accountability.
“It is unacceptable when money devoted to developing the new and independent South Sudan ends [up] in private pockets and foreign accounts,” she said. “Investigation and prosecution against those involved is a precondition for South Sudan to succeed in building a new, strong and stable nation.”
Turning to security, Ms. Johnson noted that UNMISS has been supporting the Government in preventing a further escalation of communal violence, particularly in Jonglei state, where at least 600 people lost their lives in ethnic clashes last month.
The fighting in Jonglei between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities followed large-scale cattle raids by members of the two groups which led to the theft of between 26,000 and 30,000 cattle.
In the wake of the violence, UNMISS promptly deployed peacekeeping troops to defuse tensions and act as a deterrent. It also facilitated visits by religious leaders for conflict mitigation, and carried out “robust” ground and air patrols across the state on a daily basis, said Ms. Johnson.
“What we are doing now is stop-gap measures and trying to get processes in place that can help resolve the issues over time,” said the Special Representative. “But it is only through a comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy that stability and peace in Jonglei can really happen.”
To assist the Government carry out its security responsibilities, UNMISS will help to transform the South Sudan Police Service (SSPS) and to strengthen its institutional capacity.
The UN has already begun training the country’s police officers in crime awareness and investigation. Earlier this week, UN agencies began a two-week course for 40 officers in Juba on issues such as identifying and investigating crime and reporting cases.
The training is a partnership between UNMISS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The latter is also developing a document on police reforms in South Sudan.
Regarding the police force, Ms. Johnson highlighted the need for respect for human rights and training in human rights standards, noting there have been several cases of people reportedly being arrested, detained and beaten up.
A major challenge in this area, she said, is the fact that almost 80 per cent of the police force is illiterate. “To educate illiterate police in human rights standards is not easy, but we are going to look at creative ways of being able to do so.”