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Near-verbatim transcript of the Press Conference by the UNMIS Regional Coordinator, David Gressly

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Radio Miraya Studios UNMIS, Juba

UNMIS Regional Coordinator, David Gressly: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to the Miraya FM studios. It’s been a little over three months since our last media encounter and there is a lot of ground to cover in the time we have today.

As many of you know, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive in Juba at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, 8 July at the head of a delegation that will include the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, and four UN undersecretaries-general including the head of peacekeeping operations, Mr. Alain Le Roy. On that same afternoon, the designated Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for a proposed peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, Ms. Hilde Johnson, is also expected to arrive in Juba. The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with President Kiir and there will be a joint press encounter at the J1 presidential guest house following the meeting at approximately 7 p.m. on that day.

This seems like an appropriate opportunity to review briefly some of the more notable achievements of the United Nations Mission in Sudan as we head towards the official end of its mandate on Saturday.

I have been present in Southern Sudan throughout the six and a half year tenure of UNMIS and would draw your attention to the outstanding work of our colleagues. In conjunction with other UN agencies, various non-governmental organizations and private contractors, our civilian and military de-miners have removed or destroyed over 28,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and nearly 590,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance in the country’s ten southern states since January 2005.

Over $200 million was invested in this vital exercise, and as a result of their combined efforts, over 18,000 kilometers of cleared roads have been opened up across southern Sudan to facilitate the revival of commerce and other sectors of the regional economy.

One of our early achievements was the support our military colleagues at UNMIS gave to the Cease-Fire Joint Military Committee that oversaw the disengagement of the two armies and monitored the removal of all Sudan Armed Forces units from southern Sudan, which was completed by early 2008.

Our UN Police advisers have trained tens of thousands of Southern Sudan Police Service officers over the years here in Juba and also throughout the region. At present, 460 of our UN Police advisers continue to offer such training in all of the ten southern states.

The mission has also played an important role in conflict mitigation as an intermediary between the two CPA parties when crises have arisen. I have in mind the outbreak of fighting in the Upper Nile State capital of Malakal in November 2006 and again in February 2009. In both instances, UNMIS used its good offices to help de-escalate tensions between SAF and SPLA units – which were, incidentally, Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) -- and restore peace and normalcy to the situation on the ground in that city.

The radio station that is airing this press conference live also stands out as one of the mission’s success stories. In partnership with the Swiss-based Fondation Hirondelle, Miraya FM has established itself as the most popular radio station in southern Sudan based on audience market share surveys since it began broadcasting in June 2006. It ranks today as the go-to source for fair and balanced news coverage of developments in the region.

I would also like to thank our colleagues of the mission’s Electoral Assistance Division and the United Nations Integrated Referendum Electoral Division for the invaluable technical advice and logistical support that they provided to the National Elections Commission and the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, respectively, in connection with those bodies’ successful implementation of the 2010 general election in Sudan and last January’s historic referendum on self-determination for the south.

I would also like to acknowledge the important roles played by the mission’s military and civilian staff in assisting the CPA parties to implement the 2005 peace accords. My colleagues’ efforts made a significant contribution to maintaining the overall peace and stability of the past six years, which have brought us to where we are today as the countdown to South Sudan’s independence enters its final phase.

We note with concern the continuing incidence of violence between various ethnic groups and tribes in parts of the south and also between rebel militia groups and SPLA forces. The violence has been especially fierce in portions of Warrap, Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states, and I led two fact-finding missions to those states last month to get a first-hand sense of what conditions on the ground are like for the thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting.

The mission is also in the process of rebuilding or upgrading ten county support bases in those four states to improve our ability to respond quickly to new outbreaks of violence and assess the humanitarian needs of civilian populations uprooted by such incidents.

We note with approval the recent decision of the militia group leader David Yau Yau and his followers to lay down their arms and begin the process of integrating themselves into the ranks of the SPLA.

Before ending these opening remarks and opening up the conference to your questions, I would like to share with you some personal news. I will be leaving southern Sudan next month to take up my new assignment as regional director of UNICEF in West Africa based in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.