Multiple risks are impeding South Sudan’s peace process nearly two years after the start of a civil war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a “special report” last week.
Responding to continued insecurity in much of the country, the UN leader urged the Security Council to approve deployment of an additional 1,100 peacekeepers and to augment the “air assets” available to the 12,500 UN troops and police personnel already stationed in the country.
The expansion of the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) is needed in part, Mr Ban said, to better protect the nearly 180,000 civilians now sheltering at six UN sites that were not designed to accommodate displaced persons.
“Overcrowding and complex ethnic and intercommunal tensions between displaced communities are threatening the internal safety and security of the sites,” the report noted.
Unmiss has responded to nearly 3,000 “security incidents” at these sites, including killings, rapes and attacks on UN and humanitarian personnel, Mr Ban recounted.
The Security Council is scheduled to review Unmiss’s mandate in mid-December. But even if the 15-nation body approves Mr Ban’s request, such an increase is unlikely to be achieved quickly. More than a year passed before troop-contributing countries responded to the Security Council’s call in late 2013 for an increase in Unmiss personnel.
Failure to implement a peace agreement signed in August after protracted negotiations underlies the pessimistic tone of the latest UN report on South Sudan.
Continued fighting between government troops and rebel forces and both sides’ failure to meet deadlines for establishing transitional mechanisms “call into question their commitment to the peace process and their political buy-in with regard to implementation,” Mr Ban said.
A similar note of dismay was sounded last week by the “Troika” of Western countries — the United States, United Kingdom and Norway — most deeply involved in efforts to staunch the bloodshed in South Sudan.
The Troika expressed “deep concern that South Sudan’s leaders have not formed a new transitional government within the agreed 90-day timeline of the August peace agreement. “Each day,” the group added, “fighting and abuses continue, and an already grave humanitarian situation grows worse.”
Further delays in establishing transitional structures are likely, Mr Ban told the Security Council. Among the negative factors at play, he said, is “the continued centralisation of power around the presidency during the transition and the continued mismanagement of state resources.”
Neither side in the conflict fully controls elements of its respective coalition, the report added. And it warned that if this dissolution of command continues, there is a likelihood of “an increased number of armed actors negotiating their integration into the peace process through the use of force.”
Deep divisions among communities, along with “the high levels of brutality that have characterised the violence throughout the crisis, could lead to a pattern of revenge killings, in particular if human-rights perpetrators are not held accountable,” the report said.
SOURCE: THE EAST AFRICAN