Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on extending the deployment of German personnel serving with UNMISS in South Sudan

26.10.2012 - Speech

In a first reading on 25 October, the German Bundestag debated extending the deployment of Bundeswehr personnel serving with UNMISS -- United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The extension had been decided by the Cabinet on 17 October, subject to parliamentary approval. In the Bundestag Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the following speech in this connection:


-verbatim report of proceedings-

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, fellow parliamentarians! It’s been mentioned in the debate already, yet it’s worth reminding ourselves again, I think, that South Sudan became an independent state just over a year ago, on 9 July 2011 in fact. It did so, let me point out again for the benefit of DIE LINKE (The Left), after a democratically conducted referendum. With our partners in the international community we worked hard for this referendum to take place and for its outcome to be respected by all parties. That independence was the people’s will may, for ideological reasons, not be to everyone’s taste.

That this people’s will could become political reality, thanks also to United Nations backing – Germany was President of the Security Council when South Sudan joined the world organization – is something which, given all the things that are very rightly criticized, deserves due recognition. This was a success for the people of South Sudan and it was a success, too, for international diplomacy.

Yet time passes so quickly. We tend to forget the successes and to remember only the failures. Also a year later, however, it’s important to remind ourselves of these successes.

South Sudan is now striving to build stable statehood. Anyone who’s visited the country – as many of you who’ve been there well realize – knows there are bound to be problems and setbacks along the way. Anyone who’s been there and talks about state-building, anyone who’s seen at first hand what this involves, will find it rather out of place to discuss state-building there in terms of our European ideas and perceptions in this regard. We’re not only well aware, however, of the difficult start this young state has had, we also believe it’s right to offer a helping hand with its development.

Over the period covered by the current mandate, the Sudan and South Sudan have experienced both internal and inter-state armed conflicts and their economic situation has deteriorated as well. It’s the people on the ground who suffer most from all this. No one is ignoring their plight. Time and again we hear of many lives lost. Sometimes politics is involved here, but not always – and that needs to be pointed out. In this situation we’re doing the best we can, however. In the summer we stepped up our humanitarian aid for the Sudan and South Sudan by 5 million euros, it now stands at 10.5 million euros.

Let’s cast our minds back for a moment. Thanks to intense efforts by the international community and the UN presence on the ground, it was possible to prevent these conflicts escalating in the summer into a larger-scale inter-state conflict. Of course the problems are still there. That was made clear also in the debate we’ve just had. That’s something which can’t be ignored. But if you consider where we stood 18 months ago, what danger loomed 18 months ago, then I think it’s fair to say there have been some positive developments. The problems haven’t gone away. Under the circumstances that could hardly be expected. But I believe there has indeed been progress.

Obviously we for our part urged the conflict parties to settle their disputes in the interest of the people affected. So the German Government welcomes the accords reached in Addis Ababa on 27 September. This should pave the way for a normalization of relations between the Sudan and South Sudan, even if major issues remain unresolved. Let me emphasize that point once again. No one in this House is ignorant of the problems. Everyone knows there are years of hard work ahead not only for the two countries but also for the international community.

An important role will be played here by the UN’s peace mission in South Sudan UNMISS – with double “s” for South Sudan. With resolution 2057 of 5 July, the UN Security Council extended by another year the legal basis for UNMISS under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Germany has participated in UNMISS from the start. Sixteen German soldiers are currently deployed in South Sudan. German officers are contributing in important positions to the success of this mission. So let me once again offer my heartfelt thanks to our German nationals serving with UNMISS either in uniform or in a civilian capacity.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the German Government I am seeking your approval for the extended deployment of armed German personnel with the UN led peace mission in South Sudan. The terms of this extended deployment will be basically the same as at present. The tasks to be performed, the area of deployment and the ceiling of 50 military personnel will remain the same. Let me emphasize once again that UNMISS has a robust mandate. This means UNMISS personnel are authorized to use force if necessary to defend themselves, to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and to protect the civilian population.

As in the past, UNMISS’ core task is to support the Government in post-conflict peacebuilding, state-building and creating the conditions for economic development. By the same token, it helps to ensure security, establish the rule of law and strengthen the security and justice sector. Here UNMISS is assisted not only by German military personnel but also by the six German police officers serving with the mission. They, too, deserve our thanks and respect for the valuable job they’re doing under very challenging conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the German Government’s Sudan Strategy obviously – as everyone here knows, I’m just taking up a point raised in the debate – focuses on South Sudan and the Sudan in equal measure. Of that there can’t be any doubt. Our approach here is networked security, which we see as a combination of emergency aid, development aid and assistance with state-building.

We also fund a whole range of projects designed to support the work UNMISS is doing. We help with disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating former soldiers and militia members. We’re funding legal and police training and supporting the process of drawing up a constitution for South Sudan. All this serves to consolidate the foundations on which this young country is built.

Some of you had the opportunity, I know, to meet Hilde Johnson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan and Head of UNMISS, during her visit to Berlin last week. She will have told you, too, that what Germany is doing in this connection is very much appreciated.

It’s my hope that this time round our debate will produce the same outcome as last time, when the extension received the unanimous backing of four parliamentary groups. It’s my feeling this will be repeated, despite all the difficulties that cannot be ignored. Everyone present today knows, after all, that we need to remain very realistic here. Authorizing this extension makes sense. It’s important that we make our contribution. That will not only give South Sudan the chance of a better future, it will also raise Germany’s standing in the world. I therefore request the House to give the proposed extension its broad support.

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