Encouraging National Dialogue in South Sudan in the Hope of Peace

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 13th of March 2018. Interactive Dialogue on Item 4, South Sudan

Mr President, the Next Century Foundation wishes to speak today about encouraging peaceful and inclusive dialogue for South Sudan and appeals to the United Nations to promote this dialogue. The human cost of the long-running Civil War in the Republic of South Sudan has been catastrophic. Millions of people have been displaced, millions face starvation and even famine and hundreds of thousands have been killed. Progressive steps and a national dialogue are imperative in bringing an end to the human suffering this Civil War has caused.

The Next Century Foundation strongly believes that national dialogue is in the interest of those who wish to see peace in South Sudan. Such dialogue should not be restricted in any way and should be inclusive to all those who are party to the conflict. Therefore, whilst we acknowledge the efforts that have been made via the January and February 2018 establishment of peace talks between the government and opposition delegations, we believe it is important that the former Vice President Riek Machar is included. The perceived opposition leader is currently in exile in South Africa and his access to the South Sudanese peace process is incredibly limited despite being a long-standing key figure in the country’s politics and the Civil War. The NCF believes that it would be beneficial for a national dialogue to include the former Vice President so that all sides can work cohesively to address the great issues facing South Sudan and to finally bring an end to the suffering of the South Sudanese people. The Next Century Foundation calls upon the Government of South Africa to stop its grossly counterproductive detention of South Sudan’s Vice President, an act which is both unethical and illegal.

Despite the push for peace talks and dialogue, there have been continued difficulties in moving the talks forward. The African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on International Development and the UN have asserted that “measures should be taken against the so-called spoilers of peace and negotiation”. Inflammatory and controversial decisions and actions are not conducive to progress and have the potential to hinder the peace process. We urge all parties to observe and respect the December ceasefire. Machar’s spokesperson has recently been sentenced to death by the South Sudanese government for alleged treason, an act which of itself is a violation of the ceasefire agreement and has contributed to tensions.

We understand that the situation in South Sudan is complex and difficult, but we consider peace to lie in the nation’s future. This will require international support and commitment and, most importantly, the commitment and participation of all South Sudanese factions in the realisation of a progressive national dialogue. Thank you.