UNMISS boosts protection for civilians targeted by warring parties in oil – rich region

By Deng Machol

File pic:UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets President Salva Kiir in Juba
File pic:UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets President Salva Kiir in Juba

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan says  has been rapidly redeployed up to 150 peacekeepers to the Unity region – oil rich part of the country to boost the UN Mission’s efforts to protect civilians being deliberately targeted by warring parties.

The head of UNMISS says they are concerning with the indiscriminately killing of civilians by armed forces, regards to fresh clashes between the government and rebel forces in Unity region.

This statement comes as third round of peace revitalization resumed on Thursday, May 17, 2018 in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where hopes are now pinned on a fresh round of talks to revive a peace agreement – reached between president Kiir and former vice president Dr. Machar in 2015.

The first round ended with a ceasefire agreement that was violated less than 24 hours after it was signed. The second round ended in a stalemate as opposition groups demanded that Kiir step down or give them more powerful positions.

“What we are witnessing on the ground is the deliberate killing of civilians as well as the sexual violation and abduction of women and children. Homes and livelihoods are being systematically destroyed in a way that prevents families returning to their homes and being able to support themselves,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer.

“Our fresh deployment will enable peacekeeping troops to patrol deeper to reach remote villages where the worst atrocities are taking place to create a protective presence and deter further fighting. It will also support the reinforcement of our base at Leer where many civilians are seeking sanctuary,” said Shearer in the statement on Thursday.

Thousands of civilians are reportedly fleeing the intense fighting as armed forces make their way down from Koch towards Leer.

At least 30 villages or settlements have been attacked, the statement said in part, adding that UNMISS peacekeepers and human rights teams have witnessed the bodies of civilians killed during the fighting left unburied, dozens of huts burnt to the ground, cattle raiding and the destruction of critical services such as boreholes, medical clinics and food stores.

“The atrocities that we are documenting are a clear violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Two aid workers have been killed and two wounded in the past month. Those responsible must be identified and held accountable for their actions,” said David Shearer.

According to the UNMISS, a site next to the UN base at Leer previously held approximately 500 internally displaced people but the surge in violent clashes has increased numbers to about 2000. Almost 70 per cent of those seeking shelter are children.

The UNMISS is working closely with the humanitarian agencies to support the safe delivery of aid.

However, the Mission said it will continues to engage with local authorities and further urge the warring parties to stop the fighting and adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed by all parties just five months ago.

There are 1500 UN – helmets peacekeepers in South Sudan, tasked with the protection of civilians from armed forces in the restive country.

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