Remarks as Delivered by U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan, Michael J. Adler to Commemorate the International Day of Peace, September 21, 2022, Juba, South Sudan
Your Excellency Mr. First Vice President, Right Honorable Deputy Speaker, Honorable Ministers, All Protocols observed.
I am very pleased to be here today to speak this morning on behalf of the Troika as well as for the United States.
I welcome the 2022 theme for the International Day of Peace in South Sudan: “End Ethnic Discrimination; Build Peace in Diversity.”
To quote Secretary Blinken, “When all people – regardless of their race or ethnicity – are free to live up to their full potential, our collective security is strengthened.”
This is true in the United States as it is true in every country throughout the world. Mr. Under Secretary, I heard your point in your opening remarks in which you called on the international community to speak well of South Sudan when it is due. I have good things to say.
Since I arrived in South Sudan on August 23, I have been struck by the rich diversity of the people of this country. I have been struck by the widespread and strong desire for peace and unity.
That desire was clear from what we heard from the students today [Note: during a cultural presentation, university students said that they are voices of peace and peace is their culture]. And I say to them in response: may you always be voices of peace and may you always see peace as your culture.
South Sudan’s history of diversity and the people’s desire for peace should constitute a tremendous asset.
People’s differences can and should be a source of strength and have the potential to create employment, generate income, reduce poverty, and promote peace.
There is an urgent need to create and maintain an environment in which all South Sudanese people can achieve the peace and prosperity they deserve.
This potential should be first and foremost in our minds when we consider the harm caused by subnational violence across the country, in which ethnic identities are often politicized.
On this day, traditionally celebrated by observing a 24-hour ceasefire, it is deeply concerning to consider the conflict in Upper Nile, ongoing tensions between herders and farmers in the Equatorias, and numerous incidents of violence occurring elsewhere in the country. Differences between communities have been exploited, rather than celebrated as a source of strength.
With the graduation of the first phase of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF), South Sudan has taken a significant step in creating a national force that can provide safety and security to all South Sudanese people, regardless of their ethnicity. Much more needs to be done to make this so.
A NUF that is adequately resourced, with salaries paid on time, and with diverse representation across all ranks, is vital to reduce conflict and violence. Equally so is meeting the other commitments in the peace agreement, including those related to transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation, and healing. These commitments also include those additional ones outlined by the Deputy SRSG.
The Troika remains committed to the peace agreement as the only way to deliver the peace, security, and democracy that the South Sudanese people have waited for so long for. We strongly believe the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) must be implemented in full and in accordance with the timescales set out in the Roadmap.
But violence must end now. Lasting peace will only come with justice and accountability and today I reiterate our call for those that have instigated or committed acts of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, against civilians be held accountable for their actions without delay.
On this International Day of Peace, we express the rights of all people in South Sudan to live in peace and security, with justice and opportunity for all.
Honorable Under Secretary, I sincerely hope that when we meet to commemorate the International Day of Peace next year, we will remark on the great progress in achieving commitments that will have been made over the next 12 months.
Today, I will close by repeating our strong condemnation of acts of violence against humanitarian and assistance workers. We recently heard the news of the murder on September 19 of a WHO employee in Bentiu. Such heinous attacks must come to an end; aid and humanitarian workers are not a target. Close to 150 aid workers in South Sudan have lost their lives since 2013. Most of them have been South Sudanese seeking to help the people of their own country. Those responsible must be held accountable.
Your Excellency, Honorable Ministers, distinguished guests, thank you for this opportunity to speak.
May the culture of South Sudan be one of peace.