Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 6 March 2014

The UN in South Sudan: impartial, unwavering and committed

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By Hilde F. Johnson

As the fighting broke out in Juba on the fateful night of 15 December, thousands of civilians flocked to the gates of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in search of protection. Old men carrying nothing but their walking sticks, wide-eyed children clutching their mothers, and pregnant women seeking shelter from the violent storm that raged the country. The United Nations decided to open its gates. Thousands streamed in.

It was not the first time. When inter-communal violence erupted in the Western Bahr El-Ghazal state capital of Wau one year before, large numbers of civilians sought shelter in the Mission’s compound. Five thousand people were protected over the course of three days until the unrest had subsided. The same happened on several occasions in our basis in Pibor County in 2012 and
2013.

UNMISS OPENED ITS GATES

But this time, the crisis was unprecedented. As the fighting spread like wildfire from Juba to the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, the numbers of internally displaced persons seeking refuge in the Mission’s bases swelled. As head of the peacekeeping mission in this country, there was no doubt in my mind; we had to give protection to the civilians caught up in the crisis. While more than 85,000 people were given shelter in nine of our compounds, the numbers are now down to 75 000.

In doing so, UNMISS was fulfilling its mandate from the UN Security Council to protect civilians under imminent threat and acted in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. UNMISS is the first peacekeeping mission in the history of the UN to provide shelter to civilians in need in such large numbers.

It is a major burden of responsibility. Our facilities were never designed to be humanitarian camps or to accommodate such concentrations of people. That is also why conditions are very difficult. The areas where people are taking shelter are overcrowded and way below any international standards for a camp for displaced persons. Nevertheless, the Mission is doing its utmost to accommodate everyone, and we are now working around the clock to find alternative solutions ahead of the rainy season.

IMPROVING SECURITY

Another major concern with regard to the Protection of Civilian sites is security. Important steps have been taken to improve the safety and security within and around the compounds. This includes screening of every person that enters the camp to make sure no weapons are getting in. We are conducting regular weapons searches in all the camps, including with the use of metal detectors and specially trained dogs. In addition, frequent patrols by UN police and peacekeepers are contributing to a more secure environment. We have also strengthened perimeter security to prevent insecurity within - and in the immediate vicinity of the Protection of Civilians sites of the UNMISS compounds. UNMISS has supported long-awaited operations by South Sudanese police to clear the areas in the vicinity of the UNMISS camps in Juba, to make sure no acts of violence take place and no criminal activity happens.

The gates of the UNMISS compounds were opened to all unarmed civilians facing an imminent threat of physical violence — regardless of their ethnicity, gender, creed or political affiliation. Many stories have been told about the ‘harbouring of rebels’ in UNMISS compounds. According to the Geneva Conventions, which South Sudan has ratified, shelter must be provided to anyone seeking protection, whatever their background, including ex-combatants – provided they leave uniforms and weapons behind and respect the civilian character of the camps. The number of ex-combatants is few, however. Around 80 percent of the displaced persons in the Protection of Civilians’ sites are women and children, and that includes the Tomping base in Juba.

DELIVERY FOR THE PEOPLE

And UNMISS has not only provided protection. As of 22 February, UNMISS had treated 14,745 people in 13 medical clinics, including 1,849 for gunshot wounds. We had evacuated hundreds of casualties from areas of heavy fighting. Wounded combatants from both sides have also received medical treatment in UNMISS bases. Since the onset of the crisis, as of 10 February,
173 babies have entered this world with the support of UNMISS medical staff in our UNMISS
bases.

A unique partnership has been established with humanitarian organizations, which have provided basic services to the displaced. UN agencies and humanitarian partners are doing all they can to improve nutritional standards and access to health care to the civilians within our bases all over the country.

Dr. Monday Kato, a national UN Volunteer working for UNICEF established a makeshift health clinic with the support of UNMISS staff at the protection-of-civilian in Bentiu on 21 December. During a seven-day period ending on 30 December, Dr. Kato’s field clinic registered 1,338 patients. His example inspired dozens of internally displaced persons living inside our bases. They also volunteered their services in support of a measles and polio immunization campaign

that Dr. Kato launched. By the end of that campaign, over 3,200 children under the age of 15 had been vaccinated.

Working with government authorities, UNICEF and several NGOs, UNMISS helped facilitate that more than 400 displaced children living in our Juba compounds could join thousands of their peers in taking their primary school exams. The children have endured enough throughout the weeks of crisis, and should not face a double burden of having also their education interrupted.

But we have not only helped displaced civilians seeking shelter in our compound. Also in states less affected by the crisis, the UN continues to assist the people and the country in its development. Piped water systems have been completed in Yirol and Turalei, and similar water projects facilitated by UNMISS are underway in Gok Machar, Ezo and Kapoeta. In Maridi county, and through UNMISS’ assistance and the efforts of the local community, a new bridge has also been recently constructed, linking Madubai Boma with Maridi town. This has improved the lives for 28.000 people who had suffered after the old bridge had been washed away.

While Mission staff has worked around the clock to help the people of South Sudan during these difficult times, we have also been confronted with unfounded rumors or for that matter fabrication about meetings and phone calls by Mission leadership that have never taken place; these are baseless accusations and misrepresentations of our role. There have been suggestions that UNMISS is supporting opposition forces, handing over weapons and even transporting its leadership. Nothing could be further from the truth. The UN has not and will not take sides in any conflict of this nature. In the context of this crisis, the Security Council has instructed the Mission to observe complete impartiality towards all of the country’s parties and communities.

This also relates to the implementation of our human rights mandate. Investigations into the grave violations and atrocities committed during the recent crisis are ongoing. I condemn in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed against innocent civilians of different communities by elements from both sides during the crisis. These people need to be brought to justice. Such accountability is also critical for reconciliation to take root.

An interim report has been released which includes reports on serious violations and abuse in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal, by both sides. The investigations will be completed in time for a comprehensive human rights report to be made public at the end of April.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The road towards reconciliation and a better future for South Sudan will be long and arduous. The UN has been supporting the youngest country in the world since its first day of independence, and we will be there every step of the way, impartial, unwavering and committed to the future of this sovereign nation.

UNMISS believes in the future of South Sudan. I call on all leaders to put the country’s interest before their own. I call on all South Sudanese citizens to put the country’s interest before that of their own community’s. Lately, I have seen wise young people spotting T-shirts with a very appropriate slogan: “My tribe is South Sudan”. Now these words have become a campaign for unity and peace, spreading among thousands of young South Sudanese. With the crisis the country is now enduring, this slogan should be adopted by all leaders and citizens of South Sudan..

If this could happen, and reconciliation can take root, with fundamental reforms being implemented in critical areas, there will be brighter days ahead for this country and its resilient people.

Then, and only then, will we be able to witness a new dawn for South Sudan. Only then will the babies born in our compounds during the crisis have a chance for a peaceful and better tomorrow.

Hilde F. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary General for South Sudan (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)



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  • 6 March 10:48, by Mohammed Ali 2

    If your mission is to protect civilians, obviously you have failsd miserably!

    repondre message

    • 6 March 11:48, by Tutbol

      Obviously the UN doesn’t have any properties in S Sudan that this harlot can insinuate the UNIMISS open its gates to S Sudanese for protection. The land was only granted to an evil institution that by some foolish S Sudanese in the govt of S Sudan who were talked through by the evils in the US, the US & their evil UN; to renew the UNIMIS to UNIMISS & because our fools in the govt were in the...

      repondre message

      • 6 March 12:02, by Tutbol

        celebratory moods right after independence, and they were signing agreements without, first looking at the who are behind the agreements they were signing. John Luk Jok & Makuei Lueth are senior govt of S Sudan ’law literates’ and they know how the UN has been re-packaged (both UNSC, Humanitarian, Health), as new tools to re-colonised Africans....

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        • 6 March 12:16, by Tutbol

          The criminals in the US, the UK & France with their intrigues saw that the Europeans are the so-called international community & that the S Sudanese peoples trust & respect the Nordic peoples than the cunning, thieves & their evil intrigues & but when the S Sudanese pushed on with their aims of extricate themselves from the evil arab N Sudan...

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          • 6 March 12:28, by Tutbol

            the the evils from the US, the US & to some extend France as part of the gang of evil intrigues plowed on---and yes, our Nordic harlot, the Hilde Johnson was found as the evil to be used by the US, the UK, France & every other evils in between in form of our current ’UNIMISS’ leader, Hilde Johnson. The govt of S Sudan, must informed the US to remove its UNIMISS from S Sudan....

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            • 6 March 12:32, by Tutbol

              they are not wanted & they will never be wanted in the S Sudanese plains.

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      • 6 March 23:16, by Mr Point

        UNMISS is providing shelter food and medical and education services to protect the lives of South Sudanese.
        Salva Kiir is employing Ugandan mercenaries to kill South Sudanese.
        These are facts.

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  • 6 March 15:23, by Letigolight

    Thank you hilde, UNMISS has minimised the level of genocide in South Sudan; Kiir and Machar would have butchered all civilians they intended to exterminate!
    If anyone disputes this, he/she is a terrorist!

    repondre message

  • 6 March 15:43, by Tata

    Hilde,
    This isn’t the first. US & Belgium used UN in 1960s to hire killer to assassinate Patrick Lumumba.
    What difference do you make? The same UN of 1960s is today.
    You ferried Machar to Bor, gave him UN tanks to fight SPLA. Don’t feel embarassed, even if you are his cohabitant. He likes white women of your likes. Appease him.

    repondre message

  • 6 March 17:06, by Kim Deng

    Johnson,
    Your office saved more lives, and thank you for that. But you have to do more since this war is far from over. It would be better if you can transfer those who have been in Concentration Camps in Juba since 15/12/2013 either to Kenya or Ethiopia.

    repondre message

    • 6 March 19:57, by jijury

      Hilde Johnson, We the Nuer are very happy for your work those 50,000 Nuer civilians at UNIMISS camps in Juba would have not live today if UN is not present in South Sudan. But please do more and tell your men not to keep watching while innocent civilians are getting shot at in front of them. Yesterday 5 civilians were shot at Takping camp your men did nothing to help!!!Salva Kiir genocide is real.

      repondre message

      • 6 March 20:07, by jijury

        What caused the fight in Juba yesterday was not salaries there were 50 Nuer men arrested by national security agents when Nuer guys went to visit them they found that all of them got killed. they return back and told Brig. Gen Gatwech Gai and the Dinka followed to capture Gatwech, knowing that if Gatwech hear what happened he is not going to be happy. that’s what triggered the fight in Juba.

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