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Press Conference by UNMISS SRSG Hilde F. Johnson / Nairobi, Tuesday 6 March 2012

By United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Nairobi
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NAIROBI, Kenya, March 6, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Opening Remarks

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon and thank you attending this first press conference in Nairobi. I hope we will have more interactions in the near future to talk about South Sudan and the role and the mandate of UN and the UN Mission in South Sudan.

As part of the mission's mandate to “consolidate peace and security in South Sudan and help establish good relations with its neighbours” I have, in my capacity of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to South Sudan, continued my tour of South Sudan's neighbouring countries. Last month, I visited Ethiopia and met with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The past 6 days I have visited Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, where I met with the Heads of States and Government and other Government officials.

My meetings in the three capitals were constructive and demonstrated the commitment by the respective Heads of States to good relations with the new and independent country, the Republic of South Sudan, and engagement to help foster improved relations with the Republic of the Sudan.

The relationship between Sudan and South Sudan is critical for the two countries as well as for the region at large. A deterioration of relations will impact negatively on all parties.While the North-South negotiations are facilitated by the AUHIP and supported by UN Special Envoy Haile Menkerios, with new talks taking place in Addis Ababa this week, there are two critical and urgent issues directly related to the Mission's mandate that I discussed with President Al-Bashir and other Sudanese officials:

• Firstly, the return of South Sudanese in Sudan to South Sudan: The signing by the two governments on 12 February of a Memorandum of Understanding on the return of South Sudanese which recognizes the voluntary return as the right and the basis for stability was positive.We also welcome the decision to establish an inter-ministerial committee on the status of nationals of both countries. The timeline for the return of approximately 300,000 South Sudanese in Sudan was set for 8 April. However, the agencies involved in the return, UNHCR and IOM, are clear that it will not be possible to complete the return process within this timeframe. In my discussions in Khartoum, I therefore stressed the urgency and importance of granting more time to ensure an orderly and safe return for all returnees, and called for more transit routes to facilitate this return.

• Secondly, facilitating cross-border trade, mitigating adverse impacts on food security: The communities on both sides of the border are suffering from the current absence of trade across the border. From the UN's side we are concerned about this and the impact this has on food security. Almost 4.7 million people are expected to be either severely or moderately food insecure in South Sudan in the coming months. To alleviate the impact of food deficits on vulnerable communities in both Sudan and South Sudan, I stressed the importance of opening up and resuming trade across the border.

In South Sudan, the security situation in Jonglei state remains of serious concern. Several reports of mobilization of armed groups from the Lou Nuer and the Murle communities continue, although the Mission's ground and air patrols have been unable to confirm these reports. The Government of South Sudan has now established its Peace Committee for reconciliation in Jonglei, which is positive. We hope to see the process move forward with speed. We have yet to see the investigation team be appointed from the Government side related to the recent inter-communal conflict. Accountability is important to help prevent a continuation of the cycle of violence, and we call on the Government to move forward with speed also on this process. UNMISS' own investigations into the Jonglei attacks are soon completed, and will release the report as soon as it is finalized.

As a measure to ensure peace and security, the government has decided to launch an important operation aiming at disarming all the communities in Jonglei state. In this regard, UNMISS fully recognizes that the widespread possession of illegal weapons and the proliferation of small arms presents a serious threat to peace and security in South Sudan, and is seriously exacerbating inter-communal violence in Jonglei.

However, civilian disarmament in Jonglei will only be successful if it is carried out as part of comprehensive approach to peace and reconciliation in the state. This implies deployment of adequate security forces to buffer points between and within the communities, and the start of a peace process which includes early confidence-building measures.Disarmament should take place a in a manner which is community-led, voluntary and simultaneous between all communities. I am encouraged by the recent decision by the Government to undertake the disarmament process in a peaceful, voluntary and simultanous manner, with use of force only as a last resort. However, the process needs to be carefully managed and adequately resourced forit to succeed.

The oil shutdown by the government of South Sudan on January 20 constitutes another significant challenge for the new and independent country. It will have a significant impact on the economy of the new nation. The Government has decided on a number of austerity measures that will be tabled for Parliamentary approval. At the same time critical steps are being taken to try to boost non-oil revenues and identifying alternative sources of finance. Still, as oil accounts for more than 95 percent of the South Sudanese income, it remains to be seen whether adequate mitigating measures can be found in the short and medium term. Unless an agreement is reached with Sudan which will allow for a resumption of oil production and exports, there is a risk that severe cuts will have to be undertaken a few months from now, with serious direct and indirect consequences for state institutions and the population at large.

It is critical that the two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, continue their negotiations and do their utmost to reach an agreement on oil and the other remaining issues that can foster the viability of both nations and protect the interests of the people of both countries.

As a new state faces such major challenges, the Republic of South Sudan will need not only the support of the United Nations but also the neighbouring countries and the international community at large. In Kampala and Nairobi, I discussed these issues both with President Museveni and acting Foreign Minister Okelloand with Vice President Stephen KalonzoMusyoka, Prime Minister RailaOdinga and Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula. The commitment from both countries to support their new neighbour, the Republic of South Sudan, is strong, as is their interest in seeing Sudan and South Sudan reach agreement on the critical remaining CPA-issues.

I will be briefing the Security Council next week on the situation in South Sudan, following the second report of the Secretary General after the establishment of UNMISS on Independence day July 9 2011.

Indeed, cooperation and peaceful dialogue is the only way forward to maintain durable peace and security, and ensure prosperity for the people of South Sudan and the region.

Thank you.