“Riek Machar : “I came for a medical checkup after I was nearly assassinated. I am fit. After the collapse of the peace agreement, war is raging in South Sudan. It is intensifying. We are only defending ourselves when we were attacked in Juba. We didn’t start this war are waging a war of resistance against the regime for our own survival. We also want resolution of the war I am free to return in South Sudan whenever I can. No one can stop me. They don’t control me. Transitional govt of national unity needs to be formed again. Juba govt is no longer implementing original deal the peace agreement was forced by IGAD. It has failed. We need a new solution” (NBS TV Uganda, 2016)
JUBA, South Sudan, October 12, 2016 –The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is extremely concerned over increased reports of violence and armed conflict in various parts of the country in the last few weeks.
UNMISS Force in Leer town have reported heavy artillery and gunfire exchanges between SPLA and SPLA in Opposition leading to several reported deaths and the continued displacement of the civilian population in the area into the bush and swamps.
We have also received continued reports of clashes in the Equatorias, and we are verifying accounts of attacks by unidentified armed men on a civilian convoy travelling from Yei to Juba, which led to the deaths of over 20 people, including women and children, and retaliatory actions by responding military personnel, which led to the deaths of a further five civilians. The Mission is yet to be granted access to these areas to place us in a position to independently verify the reports on the ground. UNMISS has attempted to launch a number of patrols to the scene of the incident, and have been stopped on each occasion. We are in direct communication with several government agencies, including the SPLA, in order to have these restrictions to our movement lifted, as yet without success.
The Mission condemns in no uncertain terms these acts of violence and attacks against non-combatant civilians, and reiterates its urgent call for an immediate and complete cessation of hostilities, and more particularly, an end to any form of violence perpetrated against unarmed civilians, reminding all parties that such attacks may constitute serious human rights violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Mission further calls on all parties to immediately end the fighting throughout South Sudan, and further demands that they ensure that their commanders control their forces and protect civilians and their property, cease all hostilities, and work together for the good of the people of this country.
UNMISS condemns in the strongest possible terms, any calls for a return to the violence that has plagued this country, and urges all parties to cease the rhetoric of incitement, which is not the answer to South Sudan’s problems.
We encourage all parties to put the people of South Sudan first, and work to bring an end to suffering of the people of this country.
“Three Ugandan bound buses were attacked this morning along the Juba-Nimule highway in South Sudan. The UPDF 4th Division Spokesman, Maj. Caesar Olweny confirmed the attack in the restive young nation. Passengers of one of the buses were abducted and later released by the attackers” (NTV Uganda, 2016)
Statement attributable to the Principal Public Information Officer, UNMISS.
JUBA, South Sudan, October 10, 2016 – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is extremely concerned by the continuing deterioration of the security situation in Yei, Central Equatoria, where the Mission continues to be denied access.
The Mission is alarmed that deadly attacks on civilians and looting of private property on 11 and 13 September, and the displacement of several thousand others from nearby Lainya County since mid-July, has affected over 100,000 South Sudanese in Yei, despite their civilian noncombatant status.
The Mission has received deeply disturbing reports of horrific violence perpetrated against innocent and vulnerable civilians, including women and infants.
UNMISS is also concerned at the humanitarian crisis unfolding, with a population unable to move freely, tend to their farms, or feed themselves, due to various restrictions on their movement, and the inability of humanitarian partners to freely access the area and provide much needed assistance.
UNMISS calls on all parties to refrain from further violence, ensure that commanders control their forces and protect civilians and their property and to cease all hostilities. We also call on the authorities to grant immediate and unfettered access to UNMISS and humanitarian actors, and to work together for the good of the people of this country. We further reiterate that there can be no military solution to the situation in South Sudan.
South Sudan: UN Falls Short During July Violence in Juba
UNITED NATIONS (Oct. 5, 2016)—The United Nations needs to ensure transparency and accountability for the inadequate response of its peacekeepers during the July crisis in Juba, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said in a report released today. For its part, the Security Council should immediately impose an arms embargo, both to help protect civilians from further harm and in response to the national government’s obstruction of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The 84-page report, Under Fire: The July 2016 Violence in Juba and UN Response, documents how, during four days of intense fighting in Juba in July 2016, the parties to the conflict killed and injured civilians in displaced persons camps with indiscriminate gun and artillery fire. Government forces also broke into a hotel and apartment complex to brutally attack international and national aid workers, and, in the weeks following the crisis, raped South Sudanese women who went outside the displaced persons camps in search of food.
Much of the fighting occurred in close proximity to the main UNMISS bases, which were themselves hit by more than 200 rounds of likely indiscriminate fire. In that environment, the Mission’s defense of the 37,000 displaced persons sheltered on its bases was inconsistent, with some peacekeepers abandoning their posts during heavy fighting while other peacekeepers assisted civilians trying to enter the base perimeter. Outside the UN bases, the Mission’s protection was almost nonexistent, with devastating consequences for South Sudanese civilians and aid workers targeted by government forces.
“The UN peacekeeping mission faced a challenging environment during the July violence in Juba, but it underperformed in protecting civilians inside and outside its bases,” said Federico Borello, Executive Director at CIVIC. “To ensure that such problems are not repeated, it is critical that the UN be transparent about what went wrong and hold accountable any individuals or units that failed to live up to the Mission’s protection mandate.”
Many of the problems exposed during UNMISS’s response to the July violence are not new. In February 2016, government forces attacked the Malakal Protection of Civilians (POC) site, on which 47,000 displaced persons were sheltered. At least 30 civilians were killed and one-third of the camp was burned down. CIVIC’s investigation into that incident, as well as a UN Board of Inquiry (BOI), identified major failings. However, UN leadership refused to divulge which particular troops underperformed, and CIVIC’s new report also shows there was scant accountability, despite promises to repatriate units and specific officers.
In August, the UN Secretary-General appointed a Special Investigation to examine issues related to UNMISS’s response to the July violence in Juba. It is essential that the Special Investigation’s report be made public and lead to meaningful accountability for peacekeeping units as well as for individual civilian and military officials who underperformed, CIVIC said.
Although the Mission needs to perform better in protecting civilians under threat, many of its difficulties are compounded by the inadequate support it has received from the UN Security Council and UN leadership in New York. The crisis exposed major problems with medical care and evacuation; two peacekeepers died, including one who bled for 16 hours, after a UN position was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and the Mission was unable to get them proper medical attention. During critical parts of the fighting, peacekeepers were also unable to stay in their sentry posts along the POC site perimeter, as they were not reinforced with bulletproof material.
For almost three years, the Mission has been repeatedly blocked, harassed, and, at times, even attacked by the parties to the conflict. Civilians throughout the country have also been targeted deliberately, including for killings, sexual violence, abductions, and the destruction of homes and crops. In response, the Security Council has issued numerous condemnations, but failed to take effective action.
“The Security Council has sat idly by as the parties to the conflict have repeatedly obstructed UNMISS’s movement and used weapons, including heavy weapons, against civilians,” Borello said. “It is time for the Council to finally implement an arms embargo.”
Under Fire is based on more than 100 interviews during two weeks of field research in Juba in August 2016 as well as on meetings and Skype interviews in Nairobi, Washington, DC, and New York in July and September 2016. CIVIC also sent a letter to UNMISS requesting official response to seven specific issues related to the July violence. The Mission’s written responses have been incorporated into the report.
Notes to editors:
The Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) works to make warring parties more responsible to civilians before, during, and after armed conflict. We are advocates and advisers finding practical solutions to civilian suffering in war. We believe that warring parties should do everything in their power to avoid harming civilians and that it is never acceptable to walk away from the harm they do cause. More information available at civiliansinconflict.org.