As you know on South Sudan, we had a new crisis meeting with Mrs. Hilde Johnson, the SRSG and the Force commander. She made a presentation of the situation in South Sudan, which is a very dire situation. There is still a lot of fighting, around Bor for instance where, on the UN bases, there are 12 000 IDPs. In the city of Malakal, there is fighting between government forces and opposition forces while there are 22 000 IDPs on the UN bases. In Bentiu, where the oil production takes place, the government forces are positioned to retake the city. Right now there are in total 70 000 IDPs on 13 bases of UNMISS and in the whole country there are around 180 000 IDPS.
The human rights situation is also pretty worrying. There are reports of torturing, killing and ethnically targeted violence. The human rights component of the mission has been upgraded and investigations and reporting have been upgraded to ensure there could be accountability at the end of this tragedy.
As for the reinforcement of the Force, which has been decided by resolution 2132, it is going on and it could be done in a few weeks. As you know the origin of the forces will be UNAMID, MINUSTAH, UNMIL and ONUCI. As for MONUSCO, no decision has been taken of transferring a battalion; there will be police forces but for the moment no military battalion.
Also, as you know the Secretary General has sent a letter to the Security Council to ask to be allowed to bring 500 more soldiers and attack helicopters, under the ceiling which has been approved by resolution 2132. As you know resolution 2132 was saying that it should be done by intermission cooperation but the Secretary General says that actually it cannot be done only through intermission cooperation. That is the reason he has asked us to be allowed to bring 500 supplementary soldiers, not from other missions. But it would be under the overall ceiling which has been approved by the Council.
On the political side, the Council has expressed his support to the IGAD mediation which is conducted by two envoys, an Ethiopian and a Kenyan. On the UN side, Mrs. Hilde Johnson is in contact at the highest level with both sides, President Kiir and Riek Machar. She has had two opportunities on the phone and she has also met the detainees in Juba.
It is a situation which is really tragic. It is impossible to assess the exact number of casualties but it is pretty high. Already in the first day the Secretariat told us that there were a few hundred casualties, so you may imagine what it should be now.
Hervé Ladsous will answer to your technical questions, but I am ready to answer to your questions as President of the Security Council.
Q: What’s the role of Uganda?
Uganda is supporting the government. As you know there is a government which is the government of South Soudan, which has the right to ask for another country to support its military efforts. We have to remember that we are facing two parties. There is the legitimate government which is the government of President Kiir and there are the rebels. In international law the Security Council does not have any say into the fact that a legitimate government is trying to restore its authority on its territory.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, Mr. President, the Secretary General’s spokesperson just said that you might have better information on the timing of the whole reinforcement of the peacekeepers. On the general overview do you believe that there will be there enough time to prevent what seems to be slaughters?
Hervé told us that it is not that easy to transfer forces and contingents because first you have to get the approval from the TCC, because when a country has sent battalions to Darfur, it is not to South Sudan. So the government has to give its authorization. There is also the logistical aspect but I was struck by the fact that the timeframes given by Hervé were, in these circumstances, pretty short. It was in terms of 1, 2 or 3 weeks.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, do you have any more information on the armed groups that were spotted 15 km north of Bor? Is there any indication that they are dispersing or continuing their march, and are you confident that the peacekeepers can get to their bases in time if there is a big confrontation between these two groups?
The question about these groups, what is called the “white army”, is one of the question marks. Actually they are obviously around Bor. Apparently there is this force of armed youth but for the moment nobody really knows where it is heading and what its strength is. That is an important question.
Q: What is your sense of the impact of the attempts of diplomacy? So far it seems that all sides are preferring military approaches?
The general impression unfortunately is that for the moment the two sides are determined. On the government side, to restore as much as it can of its authority by retaking Bentiu for instance. But it is difficult: before going into a negotiation, unfortunately usually fighters are increasing there fighting to try to gain the upper hand for the negotiation. So it is difficult to know whether it is simply a sort of “last round” before going into a negotiation or whether the two sides have decided to fight to the last ditch. But what we heard from the two sides is there availability for a negotiation and it is what the Kenyan and the Ethiopian mediators will try to do in the coming days.
Q: I was wondering if there is concern, about these armed groups, that Mr. Machar does not have control over them. How would that impact negotiations? Are there parties to these negotiations that would not even be at the table?
That is one of the many questions which were raised, and apparently Mr. Machar has affirmed to Mrs. Hilde Johnson, answering to this question, that actually he is in control of these armed groups. Nevertheless we could have a lot of doubts about it. It’s obvious.
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