DCSIMG

Ambassador Rice’s Remarks at a Security Council Briefing on its Mission to Africa

United States Mission to the United Nations



Thank you very much, Mr. President. On behalf of Ambassador Churkin, with whom I co-led the trip to Sudan, I would like to make the following report.

Unfortunately, the situation in Abyei rapidly deteriorated as we traveled to the region. Thus, our mission had three overriding purposes: first, to urge a halt to the fighting and to restore calm to Abyei; second, to press the North and the South to quickly resolve all outstanding issues necessary to pave the way for two peaceful and successful states beginning on July 9; and third, to better understand what an independent South Sudan will need from the UN and the international community.

The crisis in Abyei affected both our itinerary and our agenda, and we were unable to visit the Abyei area, as planned. But being on the ground in Sudan enabled us to press this critical issue with both parties and to respond to the emerging crisis in real time. That included issuing a strong press statement while we were in Khartoum that called for the immediate withdrawal of all forces from Abyei and its environs.

Our visit to Sudan included travel not only to Khartoum, but to Wau, Juba and Malau.

We began in Khartoum, where we met with several government officials. Foreign Minister Karti unfortunately was ill and did not join our meeting as planned. However, we met with Minister of State for the Presidency Amin Hassan Omer, Ambassador Daffa-Alla Osman, our colleague here, and a number of other Sudanese interlocutors. We reiterated the Council’s commitment to support two viable and successful states as of July 9. We emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution to the Abyei conflict. We deplored the May 19 attack on the UNMIS convoy and pointed out that the escalatory response from the Sudanese Armed Forces was unacceptable and constituted a gross violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

We expressed the Council’s deep concern over the level of violence in Darfur and the Sudanese government’s continued restrictions on humanitarian and UNAMID access. We asked the Government of Sudan to fulfill its commitment to process all UNAMID visas in a timely manner—an urgent issue, given that UNAMID had more than 800 visa requests pending at the time of our meeting. The government said that it would follow through on its visa commitments. It also reaffirmed its support for the Doha process and committed to lifting the State of Emergency in Darfur after the adoption of a final document from the Doha negotiations.

The Council also stressed the need for the government to protect the rights of Southerners living in the North. The government assured us that the basic rights of Southerners in the North would be protected.

The Sudanese canceled a previously scheduled meeting with Vice President Taha at the last minute. As Ambassador Churkin explained at the press conference later that day, this was an important missed opportunity by the government to discuss with the Council Abyei and other pressing issues.

Separately, we received informative briefings on UNMIS and UNAMID that added to our understanding of their work and the challenges that they face in the field day to day. Joint Special Representative Gambari and Force Commander Nyamvumba detailed the increasingly robust posture of UNAMID. We welcomed the news that the mission has increased its patrols to an average of 160 per day, up from approximately 90 per day in late 2010. The humanitarian briefing, however, was dispiriting. We learned that only 250 or so international staff remain in Darfur, which, as you all know, is an area roughly the size of France. That number used to be around 1,000.

In Khartoum, we also met with former President Thabo Mbeki, the chair of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. He helpfully outlined his efforts to facilitate negotiations on outstanding CPA issues and the key post-referendum arrangements. President Mbeki emphasized that we are at the point where these arrangements must be resolved by the parties at a senior political level. The Council agreed and expressed its strong support for his ongoing work.

We visited the Mayo camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Khartoum, where we heard the concerns of Southerners about a lack of protection, health care, education, and job prospects. Many have lived in the camp for decades, but all expressed a keen desire to return to the South. These hopes remain largely unrealized for this group in the face of poverty, insufficient transportation, and security concerns. Some returnees have reportedly been attacked as they journeyed back to the South.

We met with Misseriya and Ngok Dinka representatives as well during our time in Sudan. We felt that it was critical to hear firsthand from both groups. In each meeting, we emphasized the Council’s commitment to implementing the CPA and finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Abyei.

After Khartoum, the Council visited Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan. We were moved by the deep commitment of the staff at the Mary Health Center. Excuse me, Help Center. Our tour of its health clinic, school, and related facilities underscored the lack of infrastructure throughout the South. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with students and representatives of civil society organizations. They described their excitement for independence, as well as the vast challenges still to be overcome. Several asked for the international community’s help in demarcating the North-South border and helping create a buffer zone between Northern and Southern forces. We heard repeatedly of the economic hardship caused by the North’s recent closure of several border crossings. Above all, we heard a strong yearning for greater educational opportunities and better health care.

From Wau, we went to Juba, where the Council had a productive meeting with President Salva Kiir, Vice President Riek Machar and Government of South Sudan’s ministers. We reiterated our view that the fates and well-being of the peoples of the North and South are intertwined and urged both parties to resume and intensify their dialogue to resolve the status of Abyei and all remaining issues. We reiterated our grave concern regarding events in Abyei, including the Council’s condemnation of the SPLA attack on the UN convoy on May 19. President Kiir agreed that stability in the South depends on a stable neighbor in the North. He provided a broad overview of the remaining CPA and post-referendum issues and, with respect to Abyei, expressed regret to the United Nations for the attack on its convoy.

The Council traveled by helicopter to Malau, a small village in Jonglei State, to view a demonstration by a newly-formed livestock-protection unit. The tour of Malau underscored the magnitude of the challenges facing the South, particularly with respect to internal security. While the livestock-protection unit is a worthy initiative, the economic, social, and political effects of cattle rustling and associated child abduction remain daunting.

We later visited Jebel Kujur, a way station in Juba, operated by the UNHCR, where vulnerable returnees are provided with food, water, and medical services while IOM arranges for their onward transport. We spoke with recent returnees as they waited to load their possessions onto buses to continue their journey to other parts of the South. Nearly 341,000 Southerners living in the North have returned to Southern Sudan and the Three Areas between October 30, of last year and May 3, of 2011.

We made a point, again, of including civil society groups in as much of our program as possible. In particular, we had a working lunch in Juba with a wide range of representatives of nongovernmental organizations. Their work to provide services is inspiring.

The Council also conducted an important initial discussion regarding the successor mission to UNMIS, which we are continuing in New York. Last week’s consultations were another important step in this ongoing assessment.

Mr. President, throughout our time in Sudan, we emphasized the Council’s commitment to the full implementation of the CPA—and the need for the parties to resolve outstanding issues before the South’s independence on July 9. The crisis in Abyei only reiterates the urgency of meeting this deadline. We urge the leaders with whom we met to act quickly to reach the political compromises necessary to facilitate two peaceful and successful states emerging next month, when we will welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the international community.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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