UN 'cannot stop South Sudan's civil war atrocities'

UN 'cannot stop South Sudan's civil war atrocities'
3 min read
17 November, 2016
UN admits it's helpless as fighting between government and rebel troops has amplified in recent weeks, while Sudan's president Bashir calls his southern neighbour his 'enemy'.
Japan-UN forces set up a security perimeter around a peace-keeping centre in Juba [Kyoda News]

Fighting has escalated in South Sudan as rebel fighters and government troops commit violent war-crimes across the country with impunity, with the UN admitting the limits of its ability to protect civilians.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon, said there was a “very real risk of mass atrocities” in a report to the UN’s Security Council on Wednesday, stressing that UN peace-keeping forces would be unable to prevent this from happening.

“It must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” said Ban in his report.

“The limits on UNMISS’s ability to protect civilians in the current environment have been demonstrated clearly," he added, in reference to the UN mission in South Sudan.

Fighting between South Sudanese government and armed opposition (SPLA-IO, also SPLM-IO) forces has amplified in recent weeks after rebel leader, Riek Machar, flew to Johannesburg, South Africa.

A SPLA-IO rebel group spokesperson claimed on Tuesday to have taken full control over the towns of Bazi, near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Morobo in Central Equatoria and Kaljak in Unity state.

"The SPLA-IO, shall always refrain from systematic massacres, abuses of human rights and violation of international humanitarian law in all warfronts of South Sudan," said rebel spokesperson William Gatjiath Deng.

Ban fired the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, on 1 November following a critical report showing that they had failed to protect civilians from attacks by government and rebel forces.

China’s Major-General Chaoying Yang replaced Kenya’s Lieutenant-General Johnson Ondieki and Kenya removed its soldiers from UNMISS in protest against the dismissal.

There have been numerous reports of war-crimes committed by both sides of the country’s ongoing civil war. The New Arab reported that rebel forces kidnapped large numbers of children from a village in the country’s south last month.

A local official resigned from his post this morning in protest against alleged war-crimes and targeting of civilians by government troops in Yei River State.

“I don’t feel happy to see my own people being killed, tortured and houses burnt down,” said Toti Jacob.

“As such I have taken this hard decision to quit this position. My reasons are that last week our government forces looted a church, followed by shooting and burning of a market centre in the village.”

“They also killed one person working for a local church and the head teacher of Nyei Primary school.”

Sudan’s President Bashir called his southern neighbour ‘Sudan’s enemy’ on Wednesday and warned that he may close the border between Sudan and South Sudan

Bashir's 'enemy'

Sudan’s President Bashir called his southern neighbour ‘Sudan’s enemy’ on Wednesday and warned that he may close the border between Sudan and South Sudan if South Sudanese soldiers do not stop attacking civilians in his country.

“They were supposed to be given their rights and hand over their guns so that they come to us with their hands up, but they didn’t do so,” said Bashir.

There are potential signs of a truce forming between government and rebel commanders however, despite this recent increase in fighting.

The Dawn newspaper reported that South Sudan’s President Kiir had issued a pardon for 750 unarmed rebels in the DRC on Wednesday.

“The President of the Republic made an amnesty for those who will be ready to come back and this is the message we were carrying to the authorities in DRC,” said Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk.

Manyang Juuk also said that Machar could also receive a pardon, but would have to first give up violence before he is allowed to return to South Sudan.