My Lords, I presume that the extension of time also applies to the opening speech.
While diplomats attempt to find a lasting solution to the long-standing rivalry that sparked widespread conflict in December, millions of South Sudanese are suffering an acute humanitarian crisis. Fighting spread rapidly from the capital to volatile locations in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, fuelling local political battles and inflaming old civil war grievances.
More than 1,000 people were killed during the five weeks of violence before President Salva Kiir and the former vice-president Riek Machar signed a ceasefire agreement. Terrible human rights atrocities have been documented throughout the crisis. Taban Deng Gai, the rebel chief negotiator at the peace talks in Addis, confirmed that innocent people lost their lives in Malakal, Bentu and Bor, the state capitals of Upper Nile, Unity, and Jonglei states. Human Rights Watch concluded that armed forces from both sides have looted extensively, destroying civilian property and desperately needed aid facilities. They have targeted civilians and carried out ethnically based extra-judicial killings.
A substantial solution to the crisis will come only through an inclusive political process that engages South Sudanese communities and deals with the underlying causes of unrest. A political agreement between leaders that does not address people’s grievances, nor clearly invite citizens across the country to play their part in finding long-term solutions, may be a first step. It will, however, prove a poor foundation in the search for sustainable peace.
A five-member commission of inquiry was appointed on
“investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan”.
I ask my noble friend what actions the Government are taking to ensure that the commission is adequately supported and that it focuses on all its objectives— including modalities for reconciliation—as well as identifying perpetrators of human rights abuses. How are our Government working with the security council to press all the warring parties to allow unrestricted humanitarian access across the country, and to stress the need for UNMISS to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians more effectively?
The current crisis has its roots in wide-ranging failures of governance, security provision, reform, justice and reconciliation in Sudan. If the country is to move forward, there needs to be a process that is ready and willing to embrace these issues and address these drivers of the crisis. This will involve a change in political participation, not just a power-sharing deal. The peace talks must lead to a fundamental change in the way in which politics is done in Sudan, not just a political power-sharing deal between two leaders, which would be a return to the status quo. The peace process needs to deal with the roles of current leaders in any future Government, including what the appropriate role is for Salva Kiir.
South Sudanese civil society organisations are calling for robust justice mechanisms as well as reconciliation to be built into final agreements. These will need to deal with historic grievances that are not dealt with by the comprehensive peace agreement, as well as those from the newest outbreak of conflict. What are our Government doing as a matter of urgency to ensure that civil society plays an effective role in the negotiations and in the monitoring and verification mechanisms? What political and material support are we providing to help them to fulfil that role? Do our Government agree that the IGAD and international funds must quickly take steps to expand participation in the mediation process and engage representatives from South Sudanese communities, the diaspora and religious communities to ensure that the process is seen, heard and active across the states of South Sudan?
The Security Council received an advance copy of the Secretary-General’s report on South Sudan on
That same week, the Government of South Sudan openly accused UNMISS, or agents working with it, of channelling weapons to Riek Machar after they found mislabelled weapons in UNMISS-marked trucks travelling to Unity State. There is a strong perception that agents of armed groups have infiltrated protection areas within UNMISS bases and are monitoring who is inside. These perceptions increase fear, anxiety and tension within camps. UNMISS and UN police should expand their patrolling efforts and engage with communities to better control their perimeters and reassure populations.
Do our Government agree that the UNMISS mandate should be refocused on the protection of civilians and away from giving capacity-building support to either party? It is understood that finding additional troops for UNMISS is proving difficult. What are our Government doing to help to ensure that the reinforcements agreed in December arrive in good time?
Ugandan forces have been reported to have been fighting alongside the Government of South Sudan in the recent conflict. There is some argument that worse scenarios might have developed if they had not been present. The consensus at the Addis talks and among the international community, however, is that the involvement of the Ugandan army is counterproductive because it has undermined the ability of IGAD, in which Uganda is a main actor, to act as a mediator between the parties.
Implementation of the
What representations are the Government of the UK making to Sudan about accessing the 25,000 or so refugees who fled to that country from South Sudan in the recent fighting? Finally, I ask my noble friend to confirm, given the complexity of these issues and what I am sure will be the large number of questions put by noble Lords, that she will write to me to answer the questions more fully than is possible in the time available.