April 19, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan revealed on Friday that the mandate of the United Nations mission in the country (UNMISS) will not be renewed in July without approval by its parliament.
- Peacekeepers guard UNMISS compound in Bor, Jonglei (file photo AFP/Waakhe Simon Wudu)
Responding to questions on the future of UNMISS, foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin and his interior counterpart, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, told reporters that the government had submitted a request to the world body demanding that UNMISS’s mandate be reviewed.
"The council of ministers has already formed a committee headed by the minister of justice and others ministers and we have already written to the United Nations so that we can begin to review the [Status of Forces] agreement," said Marial.
"We have our lawyers who are looking at the agreement with the full involvement of the government. They will sit together with the United Nations to see if there are things to be added; things to be changed," he added.
The foreign affairs minister stressed that UNMISS mandate, currently under chapter seven, will "not just be a renewal without being reviewed" for the first time since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.
UNMISS was established from UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) formed in 2005 to monitor the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended over 20 years of civil war between Southern Sudanese rebels and the Khartoum government.
Under the CPA, Southern Sudan held a referendum in January 2011, which resulted in South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2011.
Interior minister Aleu said as a member of parliament in 2011, he had asked why the Status Of Force Agreement (SOFA) that established UNMISS with a strong chapter seven mandate to protect civilians protections was not brought before the parliament.
He added that most people thought UNMISS "was coming to protect the South [Sudanese] from the north [Sudan]." Since its independence, however, South Sudan has mainly witnessed battles with rebel groups and other armed forces.
"Up to now, it has never gone to parliament for rectification [...] but the [South Sudanese] constitution says it must be rectified by the parliament," said Aleu.
"If the representatives of the people say that thank for your protection but go, they will go. If they say will still need them, we will need them," Aleu added.
Relations between UNMISS and Juba government reached all time low early after fighting broke out in December, between soldiers loyal to former vice president Riek Machar those supporting president Salva Kiir’s government, triggering a conflict that has displaced over one million people.
President Kiir in January accused the UNMISS of running a parallel government after his information minister was refused entry into the UNMISS camp in Bor because he was accompanied by armed bodyguards.
President Kiir later withdrew his criticism, saying the UN has always friend of South Sudan.
However, at Friday news conference hosted by minister of information Michael Makuei Lueth and flanked by foreign affair and interior ministers, the ministers criticised what they described as "individuals running the UNMISS but not the UN because we [South Sudan] are a member of the UN."
"We have to separate UN as an institution and whoever is coming to the UN [in South Sudan]. This government will accredit anybody coming to work in the UN. We don’t even where they come from, we don’t know their backgrounds and this is where problem is. But we are learning from our mistakes," minister Aleu said.
"We will accredit everybody including messengers coming to work here [in South Sudan] if we will allow them to continue," he added.