Report: UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

by WorldTribune Staff, October 9, 2016

As fighting erupted in South Sudan in July, UN peacekeepers hid in their fortified bases instead of performing their assigned task of protecting civilians, a rights group reported.

Some of the peacekeepers in the capital Juba abandoned their posts inside “Protection of Civilian” sites, while outside the bases, peacekeeper presence was “non-existent,” the Washington-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said on Oct. 5.

UN peacekeeper presence was 'non-existent' during fighting in South Sudan's capital in July. /AFP
UN peacekeeper presence was ‘non-existent’ during fighting in South Sudan’s capital in July. /AFP

CIVIC’s report also said the UN peacekeepers “refused to help when foreign aid workers were attacked and some of them were gang-raped in a hotel close to a UN base.”

During four days of fighting between rival forces in July, artillery rounds and gunfire hit two UN bases, killing two Chinese peacekeepers. Civilians died both inside and outside the UN bases and soldiers outside raped many women – some within sight of UN personnel, CIVIC said.

“The United Nations needs to ensure transparency and accountability for the inadequate response of its peacekeepers,” CIVIC’s report said, adding that the rights group is calling for a UN arms embargo on South Sudan.

CIVIC had previously investigated an incident in February, when peacekeepers from Ethiopia, India and Rwanda “stood by” as government soldiers attacked another Protection of Civilian site in the northern town of Malakal, killing at least 30 civilians.

The UN admitted to peacekeeper “inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage” during the Malakal attack, but failed to hold any commanders or troops to account, CIVIC said.

CIVIC said the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is hampered by “inadequate support” from UN headquarters and has been “repeatedly blocked, harassed, and, at times, even attacked by the parties to the conflict.”

UN peacekeeping officials said the report “raises a number of important issues,” noting that an independent investigation of the Juba violence is due to present its findings shortly.

Conflict erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Machar, currently exiled in Khartoum, has called for “armed resistance” against Kiir’s government.

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