Parting shot. Hilde Johnson, the outgoing Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to South Sudan, says SPLM is at risk of failing; of failing the people; failing the country and failing the struggle. She cites corruption, rule by the gun and not by the law, and rule by a self-serving elite as the main diseases eating up Africa’s youngest nation.
This is my last day as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to South Sudan. I have today completed three years as SRSG, and have come to the end of my period.
UNMISS has also received a totally different mandate from the Security Council than the one I was appointed to implement. With the new mandate, it is natural that I pass the torch to a new head of mission.
And it is only when you have weathered the storm, and you are in somewhat calmer waters, that a captain can dock and hand over to someone else.
That is the case with me now.
This would have been a fantastic opportunity to talk about the achievements of the past three years, and not least our efforts during the past seven months, saving thousands of lives and stemming the killings, a cycle of violence that we know could have had untold consequences. This is a major achievement.
But I will not do that.
Rather, I will use this opportunity to do something more important: to give a few messages to the people of South Sudan and to the leaders of this country and the ruling party, the SPLM.
I will talk about the need to save South Sudan from fighting. And more importantly, to save South Sudan from failing.
Word to South Sudanese
To the people of South Sudan I want to say:
You didn’t deserve this crisis. The losses it has brought upon you on all fronts is heartbreaking. You have suffered through decades of civil war. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, you thought peace was within reach. When the referendum and independence came, you were sure the war was over. Finally, at last, the suffering and the nightmares had come to an end.
And then, after two and a half years of independence, what started as a political crisis, took a violent turn, and resulted in a cycle of ethnic killings. Never before had you, or any of us, seen such killings and atrocities happen here, committed by South Sudanese against South Sudanese. Never before had we seen the cities of Bor, Malakal and Bentiu virtually destroyed by fighting, and for the latter two – changing hands 12 times. Thousands and thousands have been killed.
Never before have we seen you, South Sudanese citizens, be displaced with such speed and on such a scale in just a few days and weeks. Now, 1.5 million of you have fled your homes. Hundreds of thousands of these are refugees, in Kakuma and across the Ethiopian border, and even more shocking, in Sudan. Citizens of newly-independent South Sudan fleeing for safety to Khartoum. Who would have ever thought this be possible – after independence?
And now, we are at risk of seeing the worst famine in the country’s history. And it is not because the rains did not come. It is because of a man-made disaster. It is because of a man-made conflict. And if it comes, it will be a man-made famine.
And those who suffer the most now are you – the people, the women and children, the vulnerable; those on the move, in fear and despair; those of you who lost everything, those who lost their loved ones, those separated from their parents, those wading in mud in UNMISS bases, the millions who are hungry, and all those who are angry - feeling betrayed by your leaders.
But the responsibility does not rest with one leader or with one tribe or community. The whole leadership of the SPLM, whether in Government, in the bush, in Addis or Nairobi, they all have a collective responsibility for what happened and for what you are going through. They and only they can stop this senseless conflict and the violence against innocent civilians.
So let me now move to the leadership of the SPLM and SPLM in Opposition, to the leadership team and to all members of the party’s Political Bureau.
I have known almost all of you for a very long time. From friends we hear the truth, we hear good things and bad things. But we usually get honest advice. As I now leave the country, I want to give you mine:
Message to SPLM
To the leadership of the SPLM, whichever faction you belong to:
You are all responsible for this crisis, collectively. What happened on December 15, 2013, and onwards could have been prevented. What preceded the crisis was very risky, and – as some of us warned that it could lead to ethnic violence.
But none of us predicted the explosion of violence, the ‘hurricane’ – the scale, the scope and the speed of killings. None of us predicted it would be that devastating. And all of this because of a crisis of leadership within the ruling party, the SPLM.