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South Sudan wants mandate of UN peacekeeping force reviewed

by Julius Gale JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Wednesday demanded review of the mandate of the newly deployed Regional Protection Force (RPF) serving under the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS), saying it is not satisfied with their services.

Government Spokesman Michael Makuei said told a news conference that under the current setting, RPF offers little help to South Sudan as there is no further threat of violence in the capital Juba following last year’s clashes between rival forces.

"If they (RPF) have come to assist the people and the government of South Sudan, then we will have to revisit their mandate so that they render better services to the people of South Sudan instead of patrolling, accompanying water tanks to the riverside and moving in the town with guns, which sends negative message to the people," Makuei said.

The 4,000-strong additional blue helmets were mandated by the Security Council last year to back up the existing 12,000 UN troops to protect civilians and key installations, including the airport, following renewed violence in July 2016.

But the RPF only started arriving in the East African country last month following protracted negotiations with the South Sudanese government.

Last week, fresh dispute broke out between UNMISS and the government over security clearance and mandate of the newly deployed blue helmets from Rwanda, leading to a temporary grounding of all UN planes.

The row was later resolved following intervention of diplomatic missions.

Makuei said the government will decline to accept a new mandate for the RPF in December if the Security Council fails to review it.

"These forces were supposed to come at a time when Juba was not at peace, but Juba is now at peace.

"We will have to revisit the mandate of the RPF," Makuei said.

"By the end of the period in December, the government of South Sudan must be consulted before they talk of renewal.

"This idea of automatic renewal without the consent of the government is not acceptable and will not be accepted," he added.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has have taken a devastating toll on the people.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, communities divided along ethnic lines and millions displaced since December 2013.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.

The UN estimates that at least 4 million people have been displaced internally and into neighboring countries, and another 7.5 million people across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.


MSF Medical charity slams ambush on its staff in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Wednesday denounced attack on its staff in South Sudan which resulted in injuries of two staff members, a loss of medical equipment and assets.

MSF said the ambush on Aug. 24 outside the town of Pibor forced the suspension of some of MSF’s medical programs in the area.

"We simply cannot turn a blind eye to incidents like these or start believing that they are in anyway normal, despite the alarming frequency with which they have occurred," Marie Cleret, MSF Head of Mission said in a statement issued in Juba.

The convoy, consisting of an MSF vehicle, a tractor and a team of four staff members, was en route to conduct a medical assessment in a nearby village when it was ambushed by a group of armed men speaking the local language.

The medical charity said two members of the team were beaten, leaving them with minor injuries.

"The team’s personal affairs were stolen, alongside MSF property, including the team’s vehicle.

The team was then left temporarily stranded, but was able to return to MSF’s facility in Pibor later the same evening," it said.

MSF, which is the only humanitarian organization providing healthcare in Pibor, Lekongole and Gumuruk, said the latest attack represents yet another serious risk to its ability to safely provide medical care in Pibor.

"People are heavily reliant on the assistance we provide for their survival, and are already incredibly vulnerable due to the ongoing conflict," Cleret said.

Following the incident, MSF said it had no choice but to suspend part of its outreach activity in Pibor, due to the increasing insecurity of traveling by road.

This is the third attack on MSF’s medical facilities in Pibor in the past nine months which has forced MSF to suspend the provision of much-needed medical care.

The attack comes just days after the charity called for the need to protect civilians and respect their access to medical care in South Sudan. Over the past 18 months, 24 MSF facilities and assets have been attacked in the country.

"MSF again calls on all armed actors to protect civilians and refrain from targeting medical facilities, which deprives people of a vital lifeline when they absolutely need it most," said Cleret.

"This incident puts the local population even further out of the reach of lifesaving medical care."

According to the UN, over 80 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the December 2013 crisis, including at least 12 killed in 2017, and at least eight humanitarian convoys have been attacked already this year.

Under International Humanitarian Law, intentional attacks against humanitarian relief personnel may constitute war crimes.

Press watchdog calls for probe into U.S. journalist’s death in S.Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan (Xinhua) -- A global press freedom watchdog on Wednesday called for an independent investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of U.S. journalist Christopher Allen in South Sudan.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged authorities in Juba to respect all journalists’ status as civilians.

"We call for a credible, independent investigation into the killing of Christopher Allen so that those responsible can be held to account," CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal said in a statement.

The media watchdog said Allen, who was killed covering conflict there on Aug. 26, was deserving of civilian status.

South Sudan’s army, a rebel spokesman, and the U.S. Embassy in the capital Juba confirmed that Allen was killed during the fighting between government and rebel forces in Kaya, near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Allen had been embedded with opposition forces for two weeks, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, the rebel’s deputy spokesman said.

"Taking photographs and reporting events is not attacking.

"It is journalistic work done by civilians, who are protected under international law," Quintal said.

Several journalists have since been killed during ongoing more than three years of violence in the youngest nation in unclear circumstances that have not been conclusively investigated, amid international condemnation.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Machar led to fighting that pitted 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 neighbouring countries.




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