Interview With Nichola Mandil of Eye Radio
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Your Excellency, John Kerry, Secretary of State, for giving us part of your tight schedule. I came from Juba, South Sudan, just for this particular interview, and I’m grateful for the U.S. Embassy for facilitating this interview.
People are asking, what do you have for South Sudan this time as part of your trip to Africa? The concern of the people of South Sudan would be what message for them regarding the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, in very practical terms, I announced today that we are putting $5 million into the effort to develop a justice and accountability system for what is happening in South Sudan. We believe that these terrible, atrocious things that are happening to people – the rapes, the killings, the disappearances, the level of violence – is really (inaudible) a violation of the laws of warfare. And we need to have accountability as this goes forward. So we will be, first of all, focused on that.
But much bigger than that, we need to bring this war to an end. There are 2 million people who have been displaced. Mothers are burying their children, young women are being raped in camps or elsewhere. It’s – the level of slaughter, of innocent victims, innocent civilians, is simply unacceptable by any standard whatsoever. And the leaders – Salva Kiir, the president, and Riek Machar, who is fighting against the incumbent government – need to come to their senses. They need to sign an agreement that’s real and they need to stop allowing the people to be the victims of their power struggle.
And I believe that the community, the nations in the community – Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the IGAD as a whole – all of them need to come together and make certain that there’s going to be an impact here. And that could mean sanctions against the individuals – not against the country, but against individuals who have hidden money away, hidden property away, who have literally stolen from the nation even as they’re letting the nation kill itself. This is unacceptable, and so we’re going to put additional efforts into that, I can assure you.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, what is the position of the U.S. Government on the African Union Commission of Inquiry report on the atrocities committed in South Sudan? Civil society and other political parties are saying this report must be published in order to end impunity, but the government’s saying, no, it would impede the peace process. What is your government saying?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’d like to see exactly what that peace process is and precisely what it would do to impede it before making that judgment. I think ultimately, there has to be accountability, and I don’t necessarily share the view that that would prevent it. But if I have a plan in front of me that shows that we can really make peace and really stop the violence and really move this process forward, and that was somehow going to stop that, I’d see where we are. But in principle, there should be full disclosure, there should be full accountability, a report should be made public, and you can’t hide atrocities.
QUESTION: And what role the U.S. will play as part of the Troika in the next IGAD-plus peace talks – U.S. partners, including neighboring country like Kenya, and the region to bring this conflict to an end?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you’ve heard me be pretty declarative in this interview that we are fed up with this avoidance of responsibility by the so-called leaders of this conflict on both sides. And it is time for people to act responsibly. What is happening is disgraceful, it is destroying not just the region, not just the country – this newly born country in which all of us had such hopes and such a sense of possibility – but it is doing huge damage to the region where you have enormous numbers of refugees coming into Kenya and other places, it’s very disruptive, and it slows down the progress of efforts to fight back against al-Shabaab, against other terrorist entities. It helps create more extremists, actually, so it works against everybody’s interest. And the Troika is going to push very hard – the UN, the United States, Great Britain, the EU – all of us are going to push very hard for some real decision making in these next days.
STAFF: (Inaudible) more minutes. You’re okay.
QUESTION: Two minutes?
STAFF: Two minutes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Your excellency, South Sudanese would like to know if the U.S. can be counted on to help bring lasting peace to their country, like the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement – the CPA – given the fact that South Sudanese are saying the U.S. was the midwife behind the woman who delivered the new nation called South Sudan? And today, South Sudanese are killing themselves, and it seems the U.S. is far from them.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, on the contrary. I’ve pointed a special envoy, Ambassador Booth. We have been deeply engaged. I personally traveled to Ethiopia. I met with Prime Minister Hailemariam, with other leaders there, the IGAD. We’ve been deeply involved. I spent most of my Christmas vacation last year on the telephone to President Kiir and to Riek Machar trying to persuade them to actually institute a ceasefire, which they didn’t do, for Christmas.
So we’ve been deeply involved. We don’t talk about it publicly every single day, but we will continue to push hard. And as I’ve said publicly here in this interview, we’re going to raise the level of effort over the course of this next discussion.
STAFF: Last question.
QUESTION: Any final message from Your Excellency, Mr. John Kerry, from the Obama Administration to the people of South Sudan who are in the UN camps, suffering and the rain season is here, and they seem to lose hope even in the IGAD-mediated peace process. Any message of hope for them, for these people in the camps in Juba, in Bentiu, in Malakal, in Jonglei state?
SECRETARY KERRY: My plea to all of them is to continue to show the extraordinary courage and patience that they have shown. I am sorry for them for the unbelievable irresponsibility that has put them in this position, and I can guarantee that the United States and the Troika and others will do everything we can to focus where the focus ought to be, which is on the leadership that needs to make the decisions to come together and stop using the people as pawns in this struggle. There needs to be a genuine act of statesmanship, if there is any, by all the leaders. The people behind each leader are not absolved of responsibility here. They all need to be pushing in the direction of stability and peace, stop the killing, save the nation, and I guarantee you we will be very much involved in trying to help make that happen.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talking – thank you very much for talking to Eye Radio and for talking to the people of South Sudan through Eye Radio. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you. It’s my privilege. And thank you for traveling down here to talk with me.
QUESTION: Safe journey to you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Same to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.