Tag Archives: United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)

UN Peacekeepers as Lackeys of Governments

image from wikipedia

Peace-keeping mission of United Nations is need the consent of the host governments to operate; the UN cannot invade. But too often agencies and blue helmets (as in the headgear worn by peacekeepers) are lackeys of autocrats, forming “abusive” relationships with those in power, according to Richard Gowan of Columbia University. This undermines the UN’s claim to moral authority.

The operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a case in point. The UN has deployed peacekeepers there since 1999, and MONUSCO, the French acronym by which the mission is known, now has about 16,000 troops, and costs more than $1bn a year.  Since 2016, the UN has failed to prevent violence that has forced over 1m people to flee their homes. Troops get away with defining their operating boundaries conservatively. Perversely, they are rewarded for not using their kit, as they are reimbursed for equipment returned in good condition. Meanwhile MONUSCO cannot easily get rid of underperforming civilian staff, partly because of pressure from trade unions but also because of the complex way in which UN headquarters imposes its choice of recruits on the mission.

Another $1bn-per-year mission, UNMISS, has done almost nothing to prevent the descent into civil war and famine since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. The 12,500 peacekeepers have a mandate to protect civilians, but have failed to do so. In August 2016 aid workers were raped, beaten and robbed by South Sudanese government troops just minutes away from the main UN compound in Juba, the capital. Despite desperate phone and text messages from the victims, the 2,000 or so troops never stirred. “[The blue helmets] are supposed to protect civilians,” admits a UN official in South Sudan. “But they don’t. Something is upside down. It’s not working.”  One reason for the failure is that the mission asks permission from the government before it sends out troops…But since it is often the government carrying out the massacres, permission is often refused or delayed…

Excerpt from The UN in Conflict Areas: Looking the Other Way, Economist, Oct. 28, 2017

When Thugs Become States

South Sudan

South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s government is using food as a weapon of war to target civilians by blocking life-saving aid in some areas, United Nations sanctions monitors told the Security Council in a confidential report (November 2017).  During 2016 and 2017, the UN monitors said a military campaign by government troops in Wau and surrounding areas in Western Bahr el-Ghazal targeted civilians on ethnic grounds and displaced more than 100,000.

“The government has during much of 2017 deliberately prevented life-saving food assistance from reaching some citizens,” the monitors wrote. “These actions amount to using food as a weapon of war with the intent to inflict suffering on civilians the government views as opponents to its agenda.”

One humanitarian assessment mission told UN monitors 164 young children and elderly died from hunger and disease between January and September 2017.

Excerpts  Food used as weapon of war in South Sudan, Reuters, Monday, 13 November 2017

The Thugs Won’t Go Home: South Sudan

Salva kiir Mayardit. President of Sudan. His trademark hat was given to him by President Bush.

“There is no evidence to suggest that more weapons are required in South Sudan for the government to achieve a stable security environment,” the UN monitors said. “Rather, the continued influx of weapons … contributes to spreading instability and the continuation of the conflict.”

They said while Sudan had provided small arms, bullets and logistical support to opposition troops, they “found no evidence to date that Sudan – or any other neighbouring country – has provided heavy weapons … which has limited the opposition’s ability to mount large-scale operations.”

Two truckloads of ammunition were transferred to the capital Juba from Uganda in June 2016, while in 2015 South Sudanese army chief Paul Malong asked a Lebanese company to begin developing a small ‘arms ammunition manufacturing facility in Juba, the monitors said.

A UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) has been in South Sudan since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011.The UN monitors said that in rhetoric and action, government-affiliated forces “have actively threatened the operations and personnel of UNMISS and other UN agencies, and both parties have continued to target humanitarian workers.”

During the violence in July 2016, between 80 and 100 uniformed soldiers overran Juba’s Hotel Terrain compound, home to the staff of international organizations, and in four hours killed an ethnic Nuer journalist and raped at least five foreign aid workers and other staff working at the compound, the monitors said.The monitors said given the number of soldiers involved, the number of items stolen and the systematic damage inflicted, “this attack was well co-ordinated and cannot be considered as an opportunistic act of violence and robbery.”,,,

A political rivalry between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and opposition leader Riek Machar, a Nuer, sparked the civil war. The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago, but fighting has continued. Machar fled the country after the violence between their troops erupted in July 2016

Excerpts South Sudan buying arms as economy collapses – UN panel, Reuters, Sept, 9 2016

Sitting Back and Watching-Cannibalism and Rape in South Sudan

South Sudan

The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, Excerpt on Human Rights Violations, released October 27,2015

The Commission found cases of sexual and gender based violence committed by both parties against women. It also documented extreme cruelty exercised through mutilation of bodies, burning of bodies, draining human blood from people who had just been killed and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink the blood or eat burnt human flesh. Such claims were registered during interviews of witnesses of crimes committed in Juba.

Elsewhere, witnesses of crimes committed in Bor Town, also provided evidence of brutal killings and cruel mutilations of dead bodies. In Malakal town, reports of abduction and disappearance of women from churches and the hospital where communities had sought refuge during the hostilities that began in December 2013 were rife. In Unity State, Bentiu, the capital has been the focus of much of the fighting, having changed hands several times between government and opposition soldiers during the course of the conflict. Bentiu town is largely destroyed. In Leer county, the Commission heard testimony of civilians, including children and teenagers killed, houses, farms and cattle burned, and of sexual violence.

The Commission found that most of the atrocities were carried out against civilian populations taking no active part in the hostilities. Places of religion and hospitals were attacked, humanitarian assistance was impeded, towns pillaged and destroyed, places of protection were attacked and there was testimony of possible conscription of children under 15 years old….

The Commission also found that civilians were targeted in Malakal, which was under the control of both parties at different times during the conflict. Serious violations were committed in Malakal Teaching Hospital through the killings of civilians and women were raped at the Malakal Catholic Church between 18th and 27th February 2014. In Bentiu the Commission heard testimony of the extremely violent nature of the rape of women and girls – that in some instances involved maiming and dismemberment of limbs. Testimony from women in UNMISS PoC Site in Unity State detailed killings, abductions, disappearances, rapes, beatings,
stealing by forces and being forced to eat dead human flesh.

South Sudan: Conflict Background

The Use of Drones in Peacekeeping Operations: South Sudan

Jamam refugee camp from the air. image from wikipedia

The U.N. Security Council is urging the use of unarmed drones in the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, but the government there says that could cause “disagreement and hostility” as a peace deal tries to take hold.  The council on October 9, 2015 adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution requesting the U.N. secretary-general to “prioritize” the deployment of remaining troops, plus military helicopters and drones. The U.N. is exploring the use of drones in a growing number of peacekeeping missions after first using them in Congo in 2013.  But deploying the drones — even getting them into South Sudan — needs government consent. “The mission requires the collaboration and cooperation from the host authorities for its operations, including air and aviation ones,” a U.N. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.  Ambassador Francis Deng told the council that requesting drones without consulting his government is “to invite controversy.”

South Sudan’s rival sides signed a peace deal in August 2015, but numerous cease-fire violations have been reported. Each side blames the other for the violations. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 civilians remain sheltered in U.N. bases throughout the country. Thousands have been killed in the conflict fueled by the rivalry between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.  The council resolution also extends the peacekeeping mission’s mandate until Dec. 15 while supporting the implementation of the peace deal. The mission has more than 12,500 uniformed personnel on the ground.

Excerpts from UN Wants Peacekeeping Drones in South Sudan, Which Objects, Associated Press, Oct. 10, 2015