By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- Whom is the UN in South Sudan protecting? What are its priorities? On October 26, Inner City Pressasked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Leer, below.
On November 4, after the UN Security Council's closed door consultations with UNMISS chief Ellen Loj, Inner City Press asked Council President for November Matthew Rycroft of the UK if UNMISS offering protection in Leer and places like it was discussed.Video here. Fast transcription by InnerCityPro.com:
Inner City Press: On South Sudan, there are parts of the country where they’ve said people are being killed and there’s no UNMISS presence. Was there any discussion by Ms. Loj?
Amb Rycroft: Yes, we had a good discussion with Ms Loj about the extent to which UNMISS is adequately prepared and resourced to fill its mandate, which had been adapted recently. It’s an ongoing discussion with her and the mission and DPKO about what they expect.
Here were the Elements to the Press that Rycroft read out, fast transcribed by InnerCityPro.com
On South Sudan, the Security Council had a briefing from Ellen Loj, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, on the challenges facing the UN Mission in South Sudan. The Council agreed to the following four press elements.
First of all, we welcomed the agreements on security arrangements in Juba.
Secondly, we welcome the release of the African Union Commission of Inquiry report which makes very grim reading.
Thirdly, we express deep concern over continued fighting, particularly in Unity and Upper Nile states, and attacks against civilians and [de]tension of the UNMISS barge and UN personnel in Nile State, raising concern across the Council.
Fourthly, the Security Council was united in reiterating its readiness to take all appropriate measures to respond to such violations of the ceasefire, abuses against civilians, and attacks on UN peacekeepers.
(At the same Q&A stakeout, which Rycroft has committed to hold throughout the month after closed door consultation, Inner City Press asked him about Sudanese troops in Yemen -- he's seen the reports but had no comment on November 4 - and when the "Any Other Business" meeting on Burundi will be held. There is not yet a date. Video here.)
Back on October 26, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about South Sudan, there's reports by something called the protection cluster there that 80 civilians have been killed mostly by Government attacks in Leer County in the month of October. So people there are asking, where is UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan]? And it seems that UNMISS has not sent any patrols. They're in Bentiu. And I wanted to know, can you find out if there's any plan…
Spokesman: Where is UNMISS? UNMISS has been, I think, providing protection for more than 100,000 civilians and has been doing a superhuman job, for lack of a more adequate diplomatic word, in terms of trying to protect as many civilians as possible. The Mission does send out patrols where it can and observes what it can. I will take a look at that specific report and get back to you.
Inner City Press: Yeah. It seems like in Bentiu, they have peacekeepers from Mongolia, Ethiopia, India and Ghana…
Spokesman: No, I am well aware of where peacekeepers are. You're also talking about a country that's currently in the middle of a civil conflict. I think the Mission is doing… is stretching itself and doing whatever it can to protect civilians. So as I said, I will look into that specific report.
Well, here's from the report by the Protection Cluster: "Over a three week period between 4 and 22 October, at least 80 civilians were reportedly killed in Leer County. Among these were at least 57 children, 29 of whom drowned while fleeing attacks.2 Widespread use of sexual violence was also reported, with contacts on the ground reporting over 50 cases of rape. IDPs further reported that Government forces shot into swamps at fleeing civilians, burned houses, and abducted women and children."
We'll have more on this.
From September 29, 2015: An internal UN document leaked to Inner City Press, which is exclusively publishing it today, shows the high degree of dysfunction in the country, and in the UN.
Here are some quotes, the full document we have put online here:
Within South Sudan the inextricable link with the Government’s political party SPLM with the SPLA military has exacerbated the crisis and this bond is also a potential stumbling block to finding a peaceful solution in the future. Currently the Government cannot adequately protect its population or institutions and therefore by extension is also unable to provide adequate protection to UN personnel or assets. The fragmentation of the military from the beginning of the crisis, the misuse of national security agencies and the economic status resulting from the collapse of state structure and drop in income, has led to further political instability.
This assessment defines that the UN is not a primary target for direct violence. However, this situation could change if the economic situation declines further, the military armed conflict continues and tensions rise within PoC sites.
Currently there is no mainstreaming of Security within the planning of UN activities/ programmes. Therefore, the policy that defines that security needs to be involved at all levels of management to ensure security is considered/ mainstreamed into all activities or programmes is not applied, specifically in UNMISS.
The high prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug use within the PoC sites has exacerbated violence and criminal behaviour directly impacting upon UN and AFP personnel working or living within or adjacent to the PoC sites. The smuggling of weapons into the PoCs poses a potential Direct Threat to UNMISS and AFP staff.
Continued accusations by government actors or affiliates that the PoC sites are sanctuary for supporters of the SPLA in Opposition also make the PoC sites a target; this point was actively demonstrated in the attack in the Bor in April 2014 resulting in the death of 55 IDPs within the UNMISS site.
Prior to December 2013, the UN was well regarded by the South Sudanese for its role in the drive towards independence from Sudan, for its humanitarian interventions and for efforts to protect civilians. But the ongoing crisis in South Sudan has also negatively impacted on sentiments and threats directed to UN personnel in the course of their work, for example IDPs insisting that national staff not from their preferred ethnic group are removed from programme activities in POC sites and some Ugandan UNPOL having to wear civilia clothes and be removed from POC duty due to active UPDF military support for the
Government of South Sudan.
In March 2014, a labelling error was discovered whilst transporting containers loaded with duty equipment for the UN Ghanaian peacekeepers in Unity State which brought strained relations to even a lower point. The error was exploited to galvanise hostility towards the UN in favour of the government by falsely presenting the UN as supplying weaponry to the opposition. It took elaborate interventions, investigations
and communications to clear the false impression that this created.
[ICP note: the same type of "labeling" or "clerical" error occure this months with weapons headed to MONUSCO. This is what UN Peacekeeping has become under Herve Ladous, who linked peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R, here.]
On 26 August 2014 under suspicious circumstances a UN contracted helicopter crashed near Bentiu in Unity State, killing three (3) aircrew and injuring one (1) other, underlining the threats involved in working within South Sudan. Investigations into the cause of the crash were inconclusive.
There have been increasing reports of criminal acts occurring within the Protection Of Civilian (POC) sites; also there have been a number of serious assaults against the UN and other humanitarian workers, sometimes involving weapons which
has resulted a few times of hospitalisation of personnel. These incidents have, and continue to affect not only the civilians seeking refuge at UN sites, but also the ‘safety and security’ of individual UNMISS and Agencies Funds and Programmes (AFP)
"In February 2015 there was an alleged sexual assault of a Canadian INGO by a subcontractor for a UN Agency in UNMISS Bentiu team site."
[ICP note: the UN and UNICEF have not addressed this; the head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, has linked rapes to R&R.]
As the fighting also continues at a pace within Sudan on two fronts – Darfur and Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan in particular) the impact for the whole border region cannot be ignored. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are also carrying out
aerial bombing campaigns in the Nuba Mountains but also extending into South Sudan in November 2014 to hit alleged JEM targets in Raja, Western Bahr el Ghazal which killed 24 people including women and children.
South Sudan lacks an adequate air traffic control system, countrywide. The government took control of the country’s airspace from Sudan in 2011, but to date has not issued any “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAMs.). There are areas, however, that the government has declared a “no fly zone” (i.e. over the Presidential Palace in Juba), suggesting that the government reserve the right to fire upon an aircraft that violates this airspace.
The SPLA-io has reportedly mined the roads to the north of
Bentiu resulting in several incidents of vehicles being destroyed and civilian casualties. This is of particular concern to the UN as these routes are a vital corridor in delivering humanitarian aid.
The existing EU sanctions delivered in July 2014 had little impact on the deescalating of the crisis."
We'll have more on this.