August 16, 2016 (JUBA) – The United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power said she is “outraged by reports of assaults” on foreign aid workers and journalists in South Sudanese capital, Juba last month.
- US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (Photo: AFP/Andrew Burton)
In a press statement released Monday, Power said South Sudanese soldiers carried out the attacks in an aid workers’ compound located in Juba.
“Attacks against brave individuals attempting to help the people of South Sudan are attacks against humanity itself,” partly reads Power’s strongly-worded statement.
She said “all innocent civilians deserve protection” and blamed the government of South Sudan for not doing its job as required.
“Throughout this three-year conflict, the Government of South Sudan has routinely allowed impunity for murder and sexual violence. This must end. South Sudan’s leaders must investigate this incident and hold accountable the individuals responsible for these cowardly and brutal assaults,” she added.
Power also blasted the 12,000 strong UN Mission in South Sudan for failing to respond when informed of attacks on the humanitarian compound. She said government sent “a response force to the site” after being contacted by the US embassy in Juba.
“We are deeply concerned that United Nations peacekeepers were apparently either incapable of or unwilling to respond to calls for help. We have requested and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the United Nations and demand swift corrective action in the event that these allegations are substantiated," stressed Power.
Fighting resumed last month in Juba between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former first vice president Riek Machar. The four days street battles were marred by allegations of targeted killing, rapes and looting of properties.
Power said this latest revelation of rapes against foreign workers and journalists “further underscores the need for an enhanced, assertive, and more robust international peacekeeping presence in Juba in order to better prevent crimes against civilians and the further deterioration of security in the capital.”
The UN Security Council mandated the creation of a robust unit of 4,000 peacekeepers last week. Power called on warring parties to “cease attacks” against innocent civilians.
In a speech to parliament on Monday, President Kiir pledged protection for non-governmental organization (NGOs) staffs. He said he “understands the concerns regarding the safety of NGOs staffs” and his government will ensure their safety.
“I instructed the Ministers of Defense and National Security to create a safe environment throughout the country that would make their movement and activities unthreatened and uninterrupted. They are here to help us and it is our practical responsibility and moral duty to make sure they are safe,” he said, but did not elaborate further.
“We will ensure the safety of all the citizens and expatriates wherever they are in the country and avoid our citizens’ continued stay in Protection of Civilian (POC) sites […] As part of this plan, by the first quarter of 2017, the safety of the people of our capital will under the full jurisdiction of specially trained civilian police and not military units. We will make our cities safe cities like other major cities in the world," he added.
Previous promises by the president to end violence against civilians and humanitarian workers have come pass without significant improvement in security within Juba.