Tobias Ellwood speech at IGAD Summit on South Sudan

FCO Minister Tobias Ellwood calls on government of South Sudan to sign peace agreement in a speech delivered in Addis Ababa on 17 August.

The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP

Excellencies, Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, the People of South Sudan. It has been a long day.

It’s an honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Troika countries – the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Today the global spotlight shines on South Sudan, and the signing of this critical peace agreement, which has the potential to mark the start of a new chapter for this young country - 4 years since we all celebrated its independence.

We welcome the signatures of the South Sudan parties who signed today. We look forward to receiving the final document with a view to signing as witnesses and international partners.

After over 20 months of senseless fighting and needless bloodshed, South Sudan’s leaders have moved a step forward to silencing the guns, to ending the violence and to start rebuilding the country.

But we are not there yet. We welcome these talks and call on the South Sudanese government to add its full signature and call on all parties to implement it immediately, starting with a much-needed permanent ceasefire.

While today marks a possible turning point, it’s no time for celebration. Too many South Sudanese have died. Too many have suffered abuses. Too much has been lost.

As I speak, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and the South Sudanese people continue to suffer: 40% of the population - 4.6 million people - cannot get enough food or water.

And recent denials by both government and the opposition of humanitarian access to citizens trapped in the middle of the fighting have been utterly unacceptable. Access should be granted with no restrictions to allow the delivery of vital aid to vulnerable populations.

So, today’s agreement should be about one thing: demonstrating that the war is over.

We commend the strong leadership of the IGAD Chair and mediation team for their unwavering resolve to end the crisis.

As we know there have been many false dawns in securing today’s agreement and, let’s be honest, there will be challenges along the way.

It is South Sudan’s leaders who must take responsibility for the implementation of this document, we stand ready to support them.

Regional unity has been decisive in reaching today’s outcome. That must continue. Together, we must be clear that there is no turning back from this commitment.

Over the last 20 months, there have been lengthy discussions about power sharing. Today’s agreement is about much more than that.

It establishes a hybrid court with regional oversight that will end impunity - and crucially, hold to account those responsible for atrocities.

It sets out a clear path for the essential reform of the security services.

It brings the opportunity for the oil revenue and other income of South Sudan to be shared amongst the people rather than channelled into the pockets of the few.

It clears a path to develop a new constitution for South Sudan that reflects the views of the people.

And it sets out a path for elections to take place on a level playing field - to allow the people to decide who should run their country. An essential part of this will be ensuring respect for media freedoms and open political space.

The peace document has just been signed, but as the ink dries one full signature is missing on a document that sets the parameters for peace.

So we call upon the government to support this agreement in full and commit wholeheartedly to implement it.

Only then will it truly represent a new chapter for South Sudan - a way to unify the country and move through a transitional period, away from the past and towards a new era.

We call on all leaders to put their differences aside. To work together to realise the hopes and aspirations of the people. And to take responsibility to fulfil their commitments.

Let’s be clear, if they fail to do so, the international community will be united in enacting swift consequences - working closely with South Sudanese partners, civil society, the churches and regional partners.

We know that peace is hard. Loved ones have been killed. Lives have been destroyed. Old wounds re-opened. That is why reconciliation and healing is at the centre of this agreement - and those provisions will go some way to healing these wounds. It will take time - but we will support you if you work to implement this agreement.

In closing, I would like to reaffirm that the Troika countries remain committed to the people of South Sudan not just today, but for the long term. We stood with you through your long struggle for self-determination. And we stand with you now as you seize this opportunity for a brighter future.

Published 18 August 2015