February 4, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations has called for a “political solution” to the South Sudan crisis following the conclusion of a two-day visit to the country.
- UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous (second right) on a visit to the UNMISS base in Tomping, which has been sheltering civilians since conflict erupted in the country (Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Billy)
“There can be no other solution to the crisis in South Sudan than a political solution”, said Herve Ladsous, who met with senior government officials to discuss the implementation of the recently-signed ceasefire agreement during his visit.
Ladsous also reiterated the importance of adhering to the conditions of the accord, mediated last month by the regional bloc – the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“Priority must go to the agreement signed on 23 January for the cessation of hostilities. In that sense, I conveyed the total support of the United Nations for the IGAD mediation process”, Ladsous said following a meeting with president Salva Kiir in the capital.
“UNMISS (the UN Mission in South Sudan) is concentrating on three areas: protection of civilians, human rights and help to humanitarian actors to deliver, but clearly the solution to this massive crisis has to be a political one”, he added.
In a press statement released by UNMISS on Monday, Ladsous also praised the UN’s decision to open its gates during recent fighting, saying the decision saved thousands if not even tens of thousands of lives.
“Had this not been done, then it would have been many thousands or ten thousands of civilians who would have been killed. Difficult as it may have been, as it is, as it could be in future, I think it shows a great example of the sort of thing we have to do”, he said.
Over 80,000 civilians are currently protected by UNMISS at eight of its compounds throughout the country, including 43,000 civilians in Juba alone, the mission says.
Ladsous one of the most pressing issues remains finding a way to reduce overcrowding at the bases ahead of the rainy season.
Community representatives told Ladsous that they were desperate to return home, but were afraid to leave the UN bases.
South Sudan forces have been battling anti-government troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar since violence flared in Juba on 15 December.
Machar, who now heads the rebel faction composed of army defectors and armed civilians mainly from his Nuer tribe, is facing treason charges amid allegations he staged a coup attempt to overthrow the government.
At 10,000 people are thought to have died, according to estimates from the International Crisis Group (ICG), while some 825,000 have been driven from their homes.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has authorised a major reinforcement of UNMISS forces, which will see troop number increased by 5,500 to 12,500 troops.
Among the troops being sent are 850 Nepalese peacekeepers, 350 of whom will be redeployed from Haiti.