The outgoing head of UN Mission in South Sudan has urged the international community not to give up on South Sudan, and to instead help the country to develop and get out of its current situation.
Speaking to the media, Ellen Margrethe Loej, who is leaving the country at the expiry of her term, said the international community needs to remind politicians to implement the peace agreement that was signed last year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(Left) Outgoing UNMISS chief Ellen Margrethe Loej. She is set to leave the country at the end of this month (Photo/UNMISS).
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“You might be tired of the politicians of this country who have inflicted this conflict on the people of South Sudan, but engage with them, try to tell them that the peace agreement has to be implemented,” she said.
Ms. Ellen said that even though the humanitarian needs are high in South Sudan, it is not the only country in the world where there are dire humanitarian needs.
“We have to underline over and over again that we have to assist the people of South Sudan to feed themselves and to be able to develop their country…The potential is there and I have the trust in the people of South Sudan,” she said.
She urged South Sudanese people to find their own identity which unites all the people, regardless of their ethnic affiliations.
Ms. Ellen said it is only when South Sudanese live in peace that they will be able to realize their full potential.
“I think it’s really very important that you all unite with the support of the international community… but it has to be you, the South Sudanese, who sit down and build that national identity regardless of your ethnic affiliation,” she added.
She regretted that, South Sudan, despite her fertile soils, still had to import food from neighbouring countries because it cannot grow or harvest its own food because of insecurity.
“You are all South Sudanese and my hope is that you will be able to live in peace and realize the great potential of this wonderful country,” she told the media in what was her last press conference in the country.
She praised the people for their resilience, and regretted that they had been let down by their political leaders. She urged all South Sudanese to work together and create a prosperous future for themselves.
“I hope peace will come to South Sudan and make it possible for the South Sudanese to take care of their families, to make a livelihood and fulfil their dreams and aspirations,” she said.
She asked armed groups that are still fighting to put down their arms so that the dreams of the people of South Sudan can be fulfilled, and so that the boys and girls can go to school and pursue their aspirations.
Ms. Ellen asked South Sudanese to work hard on reconciliation, which should happen at the political and community level.
“You have to learn to live with one another regardless of your ethnic affiliation, and that it is in your common interest to promote peace and prosperity in South Sudan,” she told the conference.
Ms. Ellen is set to leave the country at the end of the month and go back to her native Denmark. She came to the country in August 2014 at the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
She is leaving at a time where there is uncertainty about the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) that was authorized by UN Resolution 2304, with the government giving conflicting statements about its position on the issue.
At the same time, fighting is still raging in some parts of the country, which is making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to reach those who are severely affected by conflict. Both government forces and rebel forces have been accused of preventing aid agencies from reaching certain populations.