2 November 2011South Sudan has made significant progress in establishing State institutions and integrating militias into the national army, but faces challenges in protecting civilians and brokering peaceful coexistence among feuding tribes, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the new nation said today. Outlining the key achievements of the State since it became independent from Sudan in July, Hilde Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), cited the formation of a new and more representative Government.South Sudan’s secession followed a referendum in January when the overwhelming majority voted for independence, six years after a landmark peace agreement ended decades of war between the north and the south.Ms, Johnson told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York that South Sudan had also founded a new legislature, comprising a legislative assembly and a council of states.“Of course there is much to be done to strengthen and develop these democratic institutions, but it is important to acknowledge that these have been put in place,” she said.Consultations have also begun on new laws to government political parties and elections, as well as on an envisaged constitutional review.Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have also returned to the new country over the past three months with the support of UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations, Ms. Johnson said, adding the return process was expected to be completed by next March or April.She cited as a “very major achievement” the fact that the Government of South Sudan had managed to have members of three important rebel groups or renegade militias integrated into the national army, the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA).Some militias, however, are yet to be brought into the fold, she said, noting that the reintegration process had benefited from an amnesty declared by President Salva Kiir that allows members of renegade militias to join the army without repercussions.Ms. Johnson identified violence in Jonglei state as the first test of the new Government’s capacity to ensure security and the protection of civilians. UNMISS is active in Jonglei trying to ensure that reprisal attacks do not occur following the bloody violence there in August between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities.“Through a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach, we have together with the Government of South Sudan been able to so far deter retaliatory attacks, and we have also facilitated a reconciliation process where the church has taken the lead in trying to bring the communities together and prevent retaliatory attacks,” she said. It was encouraging that the SPLA had also been deployed in Jonglei with strong instructions to protect civilians.On relations between South Sudan and Sudan, Ms. Johnson stressed it was crucial that outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which paved the way for the new State’s independence, be resolved amicably for peace and stability to take root.