Guy Warrington, His Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan. (Courtesy photo)

Q&A: ‘The implementation of the peace agreement has not met our expectations’-UK Envoy

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to South Sudan, Guy Murray Warrington, has stated that the progress in the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement has not met the expectations of His Majesty’s Government.

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Republic of South Sudan, Guy Murray Warrington, has stated that the progress in the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement has not met the expectations of His Majesty’s Government.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj which covered a wide range of topical issues, Amb. Warrington also said United Kingdom is a committed supporter of peace in South Sudan whose role is to encourage the involved parties to adhere to their commitments for a sustainable and peaceful transition to a legitimately elected government. He however says they are concerned about the rising violence in certain parts of the country and that progress in security sector reform is crucial, unifying armed groups under a trained, non-politicized, and well-funded national army.

He also qualified that the United Kingdom’s support for the elections will depend on the transitional government demonstrating political will in fulfilling peace agreement commitments and ensuring they can conduct a credible election by December 2024.

Below are edited excerpts:

Question: Thank you for joining us, Ambassador. We’re pleased to have you on Radio Tamazuj. To kick off this interview, could you please introduce yourself?

Answer: Hello! I am Guy Warrington, the British Ambassador to South Sudan.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. We’re eager to learn more about the UK’s involvement in South Sudan. Could you elaborate on the historical relationship between the United Kingdom and South Sudan?

A: Certainly. The UK has a longstanding friendship with South Sudan that dates back to before its independence. We were among the first nations to recognize South Sudanese independence in 2011. Our relationship is built on strong people-to-people connections, with notable individuals like Luol Deng, the President of the South Sudan Basketball Association, being a prominent UK dual national. We take pride in these links and celebrate the achievements of South Sudanese figures like him.

Q: Ambassador Warrington, the UK has been actively involved in various projects in South Sudan. Could you provide insight into some of these initiatives and their impact on the local population?

A: Absolutely. While we cannot do everything, we have invested approximately £2 billion since South Sudan’s independence. Our efforts are concentrated in four key areas. Firstly, in healthcare, we manage a fund, with contributions from others like Sweden, the United States, Canada, and the EU. This fund supports the delivery of essential health services, trains healthcare professionals, and ensures the distribution of medicines. Since the project’s initiation in 2012, we have supplied over 10,000 tons of essential medicines to numerous health facilities across the country, reaching even the most challenging and remote areas.

We are actively involved in education, with a specific focus on promoting girls’ access to education through our GESS program, co-sponsored by other donors. While we conceived the program, it has garnered support from various contributors. The project aims to increase and sustain enrolment, attendance, and completion rates for girls in primary and secondary education. Since 2019, we have assisted over a million girls by providing cash platforms to alleviate the costs associated with education. Additionally, we work to shift social norms around girls’ education and extend our focus to include individuals with disabilities.

In the humanitarian sphere, our commitment extends to providing approximately a billion pounds in humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, benefiting over 1.5 million people. Our support encompasses shelter, mental health and psychosocial services, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives.

Furthermore, we have assisted 70,000 women in addressing gender-based violence. In terms of peacebuilding, our Peace Building Opportunities Fund addresses root causes of subnational conflict and fosters community cohesion. This program has proven successful in bringing communities together, and we actively support NGOs working in the realm of sexual and gender-based violence.

Q: Has the program, since 2019, increased girls’ school attendance and reduced gender-based violence?

A: Absolutely. Since 2019, we have witnessed a significant surge in the percentage of girls attending school. In fact, the number of girls enrolling and registering at schools now surpasses that of boys, marking a substantial achievement that we take pride in alongside our partners. Regarding gender-based violence, our focus primarily involves providing assistance to individuals post-incident, including access to legal and medical support. Our efforts to mitigate gender-based violence are predominantly centered on political advocacy. However, it is essential to acknowledge the correlation between conflict levels in the country and the occurrence of conflict-related sexual violence, emphasizing the complex nature of this issue.

Q: Ambassador, with the UK’s extensive involvement in this country, especially through government support, how do you assess the progress in implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement over the past five years, given the reported challenges?

A: Overall, when we examine the peace agreements and the time allocated for implementation, it is clear that progress has not met our expectations. As a committed supporter of peace in South Sudan, our role is to encourage the involved parties to adhere to their commitments for a sustainable and peaceful transition to a legitimately elected government. It is important to note that the international community did not impose this agreement; it was a collaborative effort. We collaborate with the government, Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) and Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC); supporting their roles in monitoring and evaluating the peace agreement’s progress, albeit with limited funding.

Q: Do you believe South Sudan is ready for democratic elections this year?

A: Determining the readiness for elections is not a decision for the British Government but rather for the UN, AU, and IGAD, likely in April. Many decisions, such as constitutional reform, census, and election logistics, are the responsibility of South Sudan’s political leadership. However, we emphasize the importance of civic and political space, the need for unified and depoliticized armed forces, including the police, and adequate financing, technical assistance, and staffing for election bodies.

While funding has been allocated in the supplementary budget, our concern lies in ensuring prompt disbursement to the newly established commissions, as historical delays have been observed in fund allocation turning into actual disbursement.

Q: Considering factors like security and the credibility of elections, what role is the UK playing to ensure fairness and freedom in the upcoming elections?

A: South Sudan is a sovereign nation, and the responsibility for a fair, free, and credible election lies with the country’s leadership. We have received assurances from President Salva Kiir that these standards will be upheld. The UK will assess the political and civil space, the neutrality of the security forces, and the credibility and adequate funding of institutions to gauge the fairness and credibility of the elections.

Q: Will the UK provide financial support for the elections?

A: It is premature to determine a specific amount. Discussions on international financial support hinge on the nature of the elections, with a decision likely in April. The support will be contingent on the transitional government demonstrating political will in fulfilling peace agreement commitments and ensuring they can conduct a credible election by December 2024.

Q: Ambassador Warrington, you mentioned the UK’s focus on education, health, and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan. Besides providing aid and support in these areas, what other interests does the UK have in the country?

A: While our current focus is on education, health, and humanitarian initiatives, our broader interest lies in fostering peace, stability, and development in South Sudan and the region. The ultimate goal is to see a prosperous South Sudan capable of meeting its people’s needs and contributing economically and politically regionally and beyond.

Additionally, as a significant shareholder in multilateral institutions like the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the IMF, the UK’s investments play a role when these organizations contribute funds to South Sudan. This also applies to UN agencies, where UK taxpayers generously contribute, sometimes exceeding the basic requirements.

Q: Do you have partnerships with the Government of South Sudan, where they receive direct funding from the UK Government for specific projects?

A: Generally, our development assistance is channeled through various partners, including NGOs and UN organizations.

Q: How is the UK Government, through your role as the Ambassador, addressing oppression in South Sudan and ensuring freedom of expression and protection civilians from arbitrary arrest due to social media posts?

A: In the UK, we value democracy and believe in the freedom to discuss and debate issues openly. We emphasize the importance of civil and political space, especially in the pre-electoral period, during our discussions with the government. It is crucial that the media has the freedom to carry out its activities without hindrance.

Q: Is there specific support from the embassy for media or civil society activities?

A: We collaborate with various local NGOs, providing support depending on how one defines such activities.

Q: You mentioned earlier that there is significant British Government investment in the country. Could you highlight some of these investments beyond the World Bank?

A: There is limited private sector investment from British companies, with many British individuals running companies, particularly in the security sector. The overall activity is somewhat restrained due to the existing security situation.

Q: Would you advise UK nationals to invest in South Sudan?

A: We do not receive many inquiries on that to be honest. It is not a common topic.

Q: Ambassador Warrington, what is the annual expenditure of the UK Government on the four areas of support in the country?

A: I do not have the exact figure, but it is expected to be around £120 million next year.

Q: With the influx of Sudanese and South Sudanese from Sudan due to the ongoing war there, is the UK Government extending support to ensure assistance for these vulnerable people?

A: Yes, we have increased humanitarian assistance and funding to organizations like the UNHCR, IOM, and the World Food Programme.

Q: Is this support through partnerships with humanitarian organizations or directly from the UK Government and Embassy in Juba?

A: Yes, we have increased our contributions to these organizations for their work in South Sudan.

Q: Considering the UK’s historical influence globally, especially now as the Ambassador, what message do you have for the South Sudanese government regarding the security situation?

A: We are concerned about the rising violence, particularly in areas like Abyei Special Administrative Area, Upper Nile, and Unity States. Progress in security sector reform is crucial, unifying armed groups under a trained, non-politicized, and well-funded national army.

Q: Could delayed payment of soldiers be a factor contributing to insecurity?

A: I strongly advocate for the timely payment of soldiers and police in any country. However, I also emphasize the importance of paying teachers, nurses, doctors, and all medical workers. All of them should be paid.

Q: Despite significant investments in health, state hospitals and clinics remain in poor condition. What is your response to this?

A: Questions about the state of healthcare facilities are better addressed to the government of South Sudan.

Q: What message would you like to convey to the people of South Sudan, considering the challenges they face with elections, insecurity, and displacement?

A: I want to assure the people of South Sudan that the UK stands by them, as we have for many years. We will continue supporting them, and in 2024, we hope for a successful election that will bring about a government providing essential services like education, healthcare, and social provisions. The resources are available, and the UK is ready to assist in this process.