October 24, 2016 (JUBA) – The head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Ellen Margrethe Løj, has said the road ahead would be challenging for the world’s youngest, but war-torn country.
- The new head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Ellen Margrethe Loj (Photo: UN/Staton Winter)
Løj, whose mandate expired in August, requested for an extension of her stay in the young nation to help in holding together the peace agreement signed by South Sudan’s warring factions in August 2015.
“Although the road ahead will be challenging, I remain hopeful that peace will prevail and that this young nation will finally live out its great promise,” Loj, also the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General said in a statement on Monday.
“I look forward to the day where the girls and boys of South Sudan will never know the trauma of war again and will be able to actualize their full potential," she added.
The official was, however, optimistic that the boys and girls of South Sudan will one day forgo memories of the war in the young nation.
South Sudan’s peace deal, mediated by regional leaders, currently risk collapse after fresh fighting erupted in the capital, Juba last July, forcing the country’s former first vice president, Riek Machar to flee.
As special representative to the UN Secretary General, Loj heads a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force, mandated to protect civilians.
Presently, there are some 200,000 civilians sheltered at six UN bases in various parts of South Sudan, since conflict started in December 2013, according to the world body, amidst fears the numbers could rise.
A peace deal that led to formation of South Sudan’s coalition government in April has not stopped fighting in parts of the country.
The head of the UN mission in South Sudan opted out of her position, allegedly due to poor working relations with the host government.
The circumstances under which the top UN official decided to quit the job remains speculative. While others attribute it to hostility towards to her role as the head of the world’s body in the country in that she has to work within institutional framework and communicates to the host government what the world body’s system directs her to do in accordance with mandate, some say it was her personal decision and choice.
Løj was appointed by the Secretary-General in July 2014 and assumed her duties in Juba in September of that year. She had planned to retire at the end of her current contract, which expired at the end of August of this year, but chose to remain at the helm of the Mission in the wake of the July crisis and until the situation could stabilize. She will continue to lead the Mission until end of November.
The Secretary-General, in a statement, expressed his gratitude, saying he is “deeply appreciative of her lifetime of service to further the cause of peace and development, especially during her distinguished career with the UN peacekeeping having headed its mission in South Sudan and Liberia from 2008 to 2012.
He was particularly thankful to his special representative in South Sudan, for her “dedication, commitment and important contributions at the helm of UNMISS during extremely challenging times”.