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UN South Sudan peacekeeping review
urges support for political process       

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- A latest review of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in South Sudan has found that reaching a political solution to the ongoing conflict is the most effective way to protect civilians, a senior UN official said Tuesday.

“A sustainable political resolution of the conflict is also the only avenue to chalk out a viable exit strategy” for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council, urging a renewed focus on supporting the political process.

UNMISS was established in 2011 as a capacity building tool to assist the South Sudan government that lacked the capability to deliver services to its people, she said.

However, following the December 2013 outbreak of violence, UNMISS evolved into a mission whose main focus was to protect civilians.

“This requirement unfortunately remains valid,” she said, noting that tens of thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed since the conflict began while over 4 million have been displaced, half of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries.

As documented once again by the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry which published its report last Friday, human rights violations and abuses, including horrific incidents of sexual violence, have reached alarming levels, and impunity for these crimes remains the norm, Keita said.

Moreover, over 200,000 internally displaced people continue to be protected on UNMISS bases with the assistance of humanitarian partners.

The review found that largely over 50 percent of the mission’s uniformed personnel are currently devoted to protecting these sites.

These sites only cover a fraction of the South Sudanese civilians in need of protection.

“There are no easy answers to this dilemma. There will never be enough troops to protect both the ‘protection of civilians’ sites and extend UNMISS’s protection footprint to other areas of large displacements, in a country as large as South Sudan,” she said.

Increasing the effectiveness of protection efforts beyond these sites will need to continue being a major priority of the mission, notably through the development of an integrated and “people focused” system-wide protection approach, aimed at filling existing gaps, generating synergies and removing duplication and thus possible wastage of resources.

Since the Security Council decision in August 2016 to deploy the Regional Protection Force (RPF), the security condition in Juba has changed substantially. Today, while the risk of instability and violence remains, the threat of military conflict in the capital has considerably diminished.

The current environment of Juba, therefore, may call for some adjustment of the RPF mandate, Keita said.



South Sudan cautions world not to rush peace deal

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday cautioned the international community that unsolicited pressure and issuance of deadlines will not help push through a final peace deal.

Michael Makuei, the minister of information, said Juba is ready to resume peace revitalization talks with the armed opposition in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but any sustained pressure or threats from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Western countries such as Britain and the United States cannot result in an agreement.

“In negotiations you don’t say this is the last round... if you don’t bring peace we will apply Plan B (sanctions) on you,” Makuei said “We cannot just be threatened. We are a country, a sovereign state, and nobody has the right to threaten South Sudan.”

The current arms embargo imposed by the United States and describing the upcoming talks as the last opportunity for the warring parties to make peace are threats that do not help, he said.

“It is us who know our problem. We understand our problem better than others, even though there are people who claim over there that they are more concerned about the lives and livelihoods of the people of South Sudan,” he said.

“There is no way someone will come to me from Troika and tell me that I understand your problem better than me,” Makuei said, referring to Britain, the U.S., and Norway.

By declaring South Sudan President Salva Kiir an unfit partner, the Donald Trump administration showed bias, he said.

The third round of the High-Level Revitalization Forum is expected to start in mid-March.

Such thorny issue as the transitional security arrangement and permanent ceasefire are expected to be top on the agenda.

In January, U.S. ambassador to UN Nikki Haley described the South Sudan leader an unfit partner at the UN Security Council, accusing him of failing to enforce effective Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreed with the opposition groups and allow humanitarian access.

Mediators from the regional body, IGAD, prefer power sharing in the states, especially in the restive Upper Nile region, to be government 46 percent, armed opposition 40 percent and 2 percent for former political detainees.

Makuei, for his part, said the government aims to give 20 to 30 percent to the armed groups.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, after political disputes between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting, mostly between Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir and Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

A 2015 peace agreement broke down in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced millions of others to seek refuge in neighboring countries.


South Sudan tells UN to name top officers implicated over abuses on civilians

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- A senior South Sudanese official on Wednesday urged the United Nations to make public more than 40 senior military officers implicated in a recent report on human rights crimes and abuses during the nation’s more than four years of conflict.

President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny disclosed that they are unaware of the names of the South Sudan Army (SPLA) officers that include 17 Major Generals, eight Brigadier General, eight Colonels and three state governors implicated by the UN human rights investigators in South Sudan.

“We were told that over 40 officers were implicated but the names were not given. We challenge the UN to come up with the (officers) names and evidence,” Ateny said in Juba, adding that they are waiting for the official submission of the report to find out if it differs from past reports.

The UN human rights investigators on Feb. 23 issued the report highlighting and mentioning the officers for the first time to have committed the most cruel human rights abuses against civilians during the violence between 2016 and 2017.

The confidential list of 41 suspects has been forwarded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“If there is real evidence that points to crimes committed by those generals, then the government will leave no stone unturned,” Ateny disclosed.

He added that this will not tarnish the entire army and its leadership since the SPLA has been disciplining rogue elements within its rank and file.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.


UN Security Council to highlight collective action
to improve peacekeeping operations in March

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council has chosen as its centerpiece in March an open debate on the “collective action to improve UN peacekeeping operations,” Karel van Oosterom, president of the Security Council for the month of March, said on Thursday.

Starting March 1, the Netherlands took over the presidency of the Security Council from Kuwait.

Karel van Oosterom, permanent representative of the Netherlands to the UN, told a press conference that there will also be two meetings connected to issues of scarcity of natural resources with the first one on the Lake Chad Basin.  

The Council will hold its regular quarterly debate on Afghanistan during which a resolution extending the mandate of UNAMA (the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) is expected to be adopted, he said, adding that the meeting will be held on International Women’s Day and may therefore have a specific focus on women, peace and security issues in Afghanistan.

“Council members will follow closely the humanitarian situation in Syria after a resolution calling for a 30-day humanitarian cessation of hostilities was adopted on Feb. 24,” he said.

The resolution requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution and the compliance of parties every 15 days.

In addition, Council members will receive their regular briefing on the political developments in Syria by Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, he said.

Instead of the regular briefing on chemical weapons, there will be an informal interactive dialogue on Syria chemical weapons with the Office of Disarmament Affairs and the Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons participating, said the ambassador.

In addition, there will be discussions on several other Middle East issues this month, including quarterly briefing on UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force).

Regarding African issues, the Council will have several meetings on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in the DRC is planned for early in the month ahead of the adoption of a resolution to renew the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan will be renewed in March, according to van Oosterom.

There will also be the regular briefing on the Secretary-General’s confidential 30-day report on the deployment of the Regional Protection Force in South Sudan. On Darfur, there will be a meeting on the Secretary-General’s report on the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

According to van Oosterom, the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee will be renewed.

The Netherlands has, for six times, taken the presidency of the Security Council, with the first one being in 1946 and the latest one in 2000.


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