September 21, 2023
Your Excellency Mr. First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Lord Bishop, Representative of the Islamic Council, Honorable Ministers, all protocols observed.
I note that the 2023 theme for the International Day of Peace in South Sudan is “Me and You for Peace in South Sudan.”
Building a culture of peace requires individual and collective commitment to work together and find compromise where necessary.
It requires leaders who take action to find common ground and deliver on promises they have made, including their sacred promises to the South Sudanese people. It requires leaders who place the interest of their people over personal interests. All of South Sudan’s leaders share collective responsibility to bring the transitional period to a successful and peaceful conclusion.
A culture of peace does not thrive in an environment where leaders blame political rivals for inaction yet eschew their own responsibilities.
The United States and our Troika partners have a longstanding commitment to the success of the South Sudanese people in achieving a future of peace, democracy, and prosperity.
As the South Sudanese people look at the year to come, they have the right to expect a free, fair, and peaceful election.
This can only take place if the transitional government meets its responsibility to achieve the essential peace commitments for such an election to be possible.
All should take into account the recent statement made in New York by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom, in which he noted that critical questions remain unanswered and that resolving them does not require material resources, but the political will to reach compromise and consensus.
The time between now and December 2024 is short. People who sincerely wish to see a free, fair, and peaceful election take place may determine that some of the actions the 2018 peace agreement states should take place during the transitional period must be postponed until after elections take place. This delay can only be justified if essential to achieve those commitments that are necessary for free, fair, and peaceful elections without further extension of the transitional period.
Any such determination must be South Sudanese and arrived at in a consultative manner, not — to use Mr. Haysom’s words – through unilateralism or brinksmanship from any party.
One non-negotiable element for an election must be political and civic space to allow freedom of expression for all South Sudanese political parties, candidates, and citizens. The responsibility to establish this space rests with the transitional government. Relevant legislation necessary to establish this political and civic space must be passed and implemented.
Another key requirement is security sector reform.
We are troubled by the delay in establishing the Necessary Unified Forces. Those who obstruct progress toward this goal are harming the interests of the South Sudanese people.
A culture of peace requires more than political and civic space, as well as security requirements. It requires equal access to economic opportunity and the transparent use of public revenue to meet public needs.
Today, the largest portion of South Sudan’s public revenue—including the majority of its oil revenue—is spent on roads; yet, the South Sudanese people are seeing almost no benefit from this spending.
Instead, non-payment and under-payment of civil service and security sector salaries are affecting government capacity and serve as primary drivers of criminality and corruption.
The transitional government relies overwhelmingly on international assistance to provide healthcare and for the humanitarian needs of refugees, returnees, and people displaced by the latest conflict in Sudan and from years of instability here in South Sudan.
The budget for the 2024 fiscal year does not include sufficient spending to carry out activities needed to hold elections next December.
Troika support for the South Sudanese people’s aspirations for a better future remains strong. We wish to see a peaceful democratic South Sudan where future generations can share in the prosperity that this country’s vast natural and human resources could provide.
The driving factors that obstruct economic growth in this country are in the hands of the transitional government to address.
As representatives of donor countries, we are obligated to our own taxpayers, and to the South Sudanese people we seek to support, to call on South Sudan’s leaders of all parties to prioritize use of public revenue in a manner that treats the South Sudanese people as their priority.
This means the transitional government taking greater responsibility:
- to provide basic services, including health and education, to its citizens;
- to pay public sector salaries on time, including those for security forces, health workers, teachers, in a transparent and accountable manner;
- to increase its contribution to humanitarian assistance to its people who are in greatest need;
- and to plan responsibly to fund the electoral process.
For too long, the South Sudanese people and international donors have failed to see progress in these areas. We have also failed to see accountability for human rights violations, including gender-based violence, and measures to prevent corruption.
Honorable Under Secretary, when we gathered on this day a year ago, I spoke of my hope that this year, on International Day of Peace, we would be recognizing greater progress in achieving commitments over the past 12 months.
It deeply saddens me that I am unable to point to such progress.
I will depart from my original text Honorable Under Secretary. You noted in your earlier remarks, a conversation you had with a young person who said there was no peace in Juba and to whom you replied that Juba is comparatively more peaceful than Khartoum. I urge that nobody here today view such a comparison as an acceptable standard for South Sudan to aspire to. When I consider the tragic situation in Khartoum, it gives me a greater sense of urgency about the need for South Sudan’s leaders to meet their own peace commitments.
Among these is the establishment of the Necessary Unified Forces. As the conflict in Sudan clearly illustrates, having an integrated military force, with a single chain of command, is essential for any country, and especially for South Sudan.
I would repeat my strong view that:
- Anybody who did not understand this on April 14, surely would have understood it on April 15.
- Those who are withholding actions necessary to end the era of separate armed groups in South Sudan are harming the interests of the South Sudanese people.
- This includes withholding lists of names of officers, refusing to turn in weapons, or failing to demonstrate readiness to have equitable harmonization of ranks and stable consistent pay for personnel.
Time is critical. In the interests of building peace, the transitional government must do more now to meet its peace commitments, introduce transparency and accountability, and prioritize the use of public revenue to meet public needs.