October 6, 2016 (JUBA) – United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has denied reports that its peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the July violence in the capital, Juba, between rival forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his deposed first deputy, Riek Machar.
A report released on Wednesday by the U.S.-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) accused the UN peacekeepers in the war-ravaged nation of failing to carry out their Chapter Seven mandate which was supposed to protect the civilians, including through the use of force against the perpetrators of violence.
The report said UNMISS also used tear gas against civilians who attempted to enter their compound during the fighting. UNMISS in a statement issued on Thursday dismissed the accusations, explaining that they allowed thousands of the civilians at risk to enter their compounds in Juba.
“During the fighting in July, the Mission allowed several thousand civilians to shelter in the accommodation/office areas of UN House and over the days following, until the situation abated to allow them to relocate to the POC site. These civilians in need of protection were given what aid was available, including medical assistance by UNMISS military and civilian personnel,” said Yasmina Bouziane, UNMISS’ spokesperson and Principal Public Information Officer.
UNMISS, she added, also opened its gates at Tomping to receive some 4,000 civilians in distress, and sheltered them for over two months in temporary accommodations.
The Mission and humanitarian partners, she said, ensured that they received all necessary humanitarian assistance and the Mission’s protection, until they could be relocated to the POC site adjacent to UN House, where they could better receive humanitarian assistance.
“The CIVIC report on the violence in Juba in July 2016 raises a number of important issues related to the South Sudan peace process, the behaviour of national security sources and their attacks against South Sudanese and international civilians, and the Mission’s response to the crisis,” she however admitted.
“The Mission takes its duty to protect civilians in imminent danger very seriously, and we welcome any fair minded assessment of the conduct of the Mission, as it assists us in addressing many of the challenges we face,” she concluded.