By James Okuk
March 12, 2014 - What brought the UNMISS to South Sudan and what will make it to continue or discontinue operating in South Sudan? This is the essential question of concern these days; especially with the repeated errors committed by some careless UNMISS staff.
The UNMISS came to South Sudan by default as a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and the Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army in 2005. It was called UNMIS under UN Charter; Chapter Six and with Security Council Resolution 1590 dated 24th March 2005. Its core mandate by then was to ensure that the signed peace agreement was kept intact so that war is not invited back. Its Headquarters was in Khartoum with operation compounds scattered in Malakal, Juba and other limited parts of the country.
There was no much scrutiny and suspicion, particularly from side of the Government of Southern Sudan, regarding the operation of the UNMIS. All its personnel were perceived as friends of Southern Sudan with good will to help in peacekeeping endeavors.
The SPLM leaders might have thought that the UNMIS was for the interest of Southern Sudan against any violation from Khartoum that was known for dishonoring agreements. Thus, the UNMIS was allowed to transport whatever they wanted via any entry port in Southern part of the Sudan without cross-checking for authenticity.
The first test of the mandate of the UNMIS took place in Malakal when the Other Armed Forces (militias) of Gabriel Tangyinya under the pretext of Joint Integrated Units fought with the SPLA inside Military Headquarters (Giyada) in Malakal in December 2006, and again near the airport in February 2009.
However, the armed violence was contained quickly and there were limited fatalities, casualties and destruction on the side of the civilians. Malakal town was not brought to barbaric ruins except the looting of Upper Nile University by the Nuer Militias. No civilians took refuge in UNMIS compound. Life went back to normal in Malakal.
Later when South Sudan became an independent country, the UNMIS quickly transformed itself into UNMISS, but under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter with Security Council Resolution 1996 dated 8th July 2011.
The UNMISS signed an agreement with the Government of South Sudan on status of its armed forces (SOFA) on 8th August 2011, similar to that signed with Government of Sudan on 28th December 2005.
It is stipulated in article IV of SOFA that, Quote: “UNMISS and its members shall refrain from any action or activity incompatible with the impartial and international nature of their duties or inconsistent with the spirit of the present arrangements. UNMISS and its members shall respect all local laws and regulations.” End Quote.
With the SOFA, the UNMIS continued to live in very nice honey-moons with the Government of Southern Sudan and so has it been with the Government of South Sudan, especially when Ms. Hilde F. Johnson took over as the Special Representative. Even the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was so impressed that he found himself singing the SPLM slogan of “Oyee” during the celebrations for the Declaration of Independence on 9th July 2011. The UNMISS enjoying the good will and friendliness of the SPLM government of South Sudan.
But now and with the devastating crisis created by the SPLM and its military wing the SPLA for South Sudan, the UNMISS ‘honey-moons’ seems to be turning into ‘sourly-sun’. Suspicions, mistrust, scrutiny and hostile propaganda seems to be taking the central stage. The UNMISS leadership seems to be caught unaware.
The Kiir-Riek’s conflict has wounded the good faith that was wrongly put on the UNMISS by South Sudanese. Nowadays, you rarely see the lovely images and messages of Ms Hilde aired on the SSTV when meeting the top VIPs in Juba.
Instead, you see her being painted as a ‘crisis-maker’ with a pistol in her hands aimed at target of paralyzing the government. She has been removed from the status of a lover of Kiir’s government. She is now perceived as promoter and facilitator of Riek’s rebellion.
The UNMISS has started to take it tough on the SPLM government especially on human rights violations. The SPLM government has started to retaliate too. No more easy friendships and smiles any more. It is only tensions and pressures on each other. The real work has commenced!
Tough questions about the Special Representative of UNMISS (and her team) that were never asked before in the open are now being aired out publicly and with serious repercussions.
Who is Hilde F. Johnson and what are her ulterior motives in representing the UN with a special status in South Sudan?
Does she honestly care about the plight of the vulnerable South Sudanese or she is here only to enjoy herself with her darling friends?
Why did she not visit the UNMISS compounds in Malakal, Bentieu, Bor and Akobo since the time these became refugees camps for South Sudanese who escaped the devastating atrocities at their homes?
Is she here to use South Sudan as a ladder that can take her up in the top hierarchy of the UN when the term of Ban Ki-Moon is over?
Does she want to rule South Sudan under the UN Trusteeship if South Sudanese failed to stop the madness of mass killings against themselves and stalled at establishing an interim government?
What are the identities/nationalities and the hidden motives/leanings of the rest of her leadership team in UNMISS?
Why are the IDPs, especially in Malakal, not protected by the UNMISS from all sorts of insecurity, especially hunger, no-shelter and diseases that kill daily in its compound?
Why is the UNMISS not allowing/facilitating the media outlets to go and take footages that could tell the world in pictures and videos about the catastrophic and apocalyptic situation of the South Sudanese IDPs being hosted in its compounds?
Who said that the UNMISS is supposed to protect the vulnerable civilians in its compounds only and not outside its premises in the troubled South Sudan?
What is the purpose of the Chapter Seven of the UN Charter if its provisions are not applied by the UNMISS on the ground in South Sudan when civilians and their homes are ruined to ashes by those who don’t have respect for human dignity?
Why was the UN Security Council so adamant in prescribing Chapter Seven in Darfur but reluctant to use the granted Chapter Seven in South Sudan when so many dear lives of innocent civilians have been annihilated on the watch of UN armed forces?
Of course the UNMISS is appreciated for the work it did to open its gates to South Sudanese who were fleeing from death and fear of atrocious harms on them in their unsecured residences in the towns where violent conflicts erupted in South Sudan.
The UNMISS is also much appreciated for hosting the displaced vulnerable civilians in their compounds, though in inhumane environment that has been un-protective in other terms of security except firearms.
The UNMISS is appreciated for airlifting and relocating some South Sudanese IDPs from its compounds to Juba and other safer locations.
But I doubt whether the UNMISS is going to continue operating for long in South Sudan in the manner it is doing now.
If Ms Hilde F. Johnson did well in the time of peace and love in South Sudan, it should be acknowledged reversely now that she has failed to succeed in the time of war and animosities. The UN should start appreciating her irrelevance now in South Sudan and withdraw her and her top team honorable before it is too late.
Though the UNMISS personnel enjoy immunities and privileges in accordance with the diplomatic conventions and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA); it should not be a surprise when an embarrassing status of persona none grata is declared on Ms Hilde and some of her staff. It has been seen in public demonstrations aired in the SSTV that she is unwanted in South Sudan
The UNMISS should not continue to take the Government of South Sudan for granted, especially with the proposal of the UN Trusteeship, aiming at occupying the hot chair of the elected President of the Republic of South Sudan. The UN should not undermine it that the current crisis was caused by competition for occupying the top government chair of power being occupied already by President Salva Kiir. If the UN is looking for additional crisis in South Sudan let it touch Kiir’s Chair of Power.
What I can say in a nut-shield is that it is only peace that would allow the UNMISS to continue operating gracefully in South Sudan. Hence, the UN should make it a priority to bring peace quickly to this unfortunately ‘born-to-suffer’ country. It is that peace that could give the UNMISS a renewed mandate to keep and also keep itself in South Sudan. But how will that peace comes when so many things have fallen apart?
Promotion of war through distribution of violence armaments is not going to make the UNMISS continue to operate in South Sudan. The UNMISS Neutrality is not going to be possible when war and destruction is on.
Who will the UNMISS protect if the civilians leave South Sudan to take refuge in the neighboring countries because of war escalation and lack of dignified assistance inside the inhumane UNMISS premises?
Who will the government of South Sudan govern if the neglected civilians lose confidence in their own country and take refuge under governments of neighboring countries?
Who will blame the neglected citizens of South Sudan if they got angry with both the government and the rebels and demand a referendum to become part of neighboring countries protecting and assisting them now?
I am really worried about the fate of my beloved Republic of South Sudan. May God come to our help before it is too late!
Dr. James Okuk is reachable at email@example.com