Making Sense of the IGAD’S and UNSC’s proposal to upgrade UNMISS Mandate

By Agook Mayek Riak*

South Sudan's First Vice President Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir, right, shake hands following the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government, in the capital Juba, April 29, 2016.
South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir, right, shake hands following the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government, in the capital Juba, April 29, 2016.

From 7th to 11th of July 2016, Juba-the capital of South Sudan was put under serious tension and constant bombardments as a result of the fight that erupted once again since December 2013 between the forces loyal to Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Dr Riek Machar. The renewal of the conflict has been met with a lot of condemnation, particularly at the international spheres. This led to an outright proposal of the intervention force by IGAD Heads of states, and a view that seems to augur well with many other international diplomatic organisations, particularly the UN.

On the 5th of August 2016, the Assembly of the IGAD Heads of states held its Second Extra-Ordinary Summit meeting on the 5th of August 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and deliberated on the prevailing situation in the Republic of South Sudan. In their resolve, the IGAD Heads of states endorsed the outcome of the meeting of the East African Chiefs of Defense Staff held on 29th July 2016, in Addis Ababa, on the deployment of a Regional Protection Force (RPF) as the basis for further and urgent discussion with the United Nations (UN) towards reaching a common ground on speedy deployment of the Force under UNMISS. In the Communique, the IGAD Heads further called upon the UNSC to expedite the process of extending UNMISS mandate including the deployment of the Regional Protection Force with distinct responsibilities. And since the IGAD Heads have given this hint, it will be much easier for the eagerly waiting United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to extend the UNMISS mandate, that will include the RPF.

However, one pertinent question remains as to whether the suggested RPF plus the existing UN peacekeepers will be effective in bringing desperately needed stability in the country. First of all, like so many other UN missions, UNMISS has been and is still a highly dysfunctional and a “mafia” mission characterized with so many incompetent international personnel, and many of whom bear “low moral standings”-basically living in debauchery and corrupt to the core.

Secondly, when it comes to protection of civilians, UNMISS has not lived up to its recent mandate-“Protection of Civilians”. Since 2013, UNMISS has demonstrated its incapability in so many occasions to protect civilians, for example in Bor, Malakal and even in Yambio, where hundreds and hundreds of vulnerable civilians were left stranded at its gates. In addition, UNMISS has from time to time failed to protect its national staff members who are deplorably discriminated and disenfranchised, particularly when one closely looks at the UNMISS operational or systemic policies. It beats once conscientious reasoning as to why such a dilapidated organization would be charged with even a bigger and a more challenging task.

Thirdly, the whole of the Eastern and Horns of Africa region is in one way or the other, troubled by the insecurities of tribalism and corruption, and that means the RPF to South Sudan will carry all of these inadequacies with them. This coupled with the already UNMISS existing enormous systemic challenges and the already complexities in the South Sudanese conflict dynamics, it will definitely leave a lot of doubts on the effectiveness and the successes that the forthcoming UNMISS mandate will make  as far as bringing peace to the war ravaged South Sudan is concerned.

South Sudanese conflict is more economically and institutionally driven, therefore, instead of sending in more troops to Juba, more focus in terms of resources and energy should be directed towards the economic and resilience building in vulnerable communities of South Sudan.  As echoed in the preamble of the UN Charter that we the peoples of the United Nations are determined to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, one would suggest that UNMISS in terms of manpower and operations should be scaled down and more resources should be channeled to the UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations with clear and well-articulated guidelines in line with South Sudan Development plan on the areas of economic and social enhancement in which the funding should be used. The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) provides a good platform on how to revive the South Sudanese dwindling economy. There is a need to deliver on the Special Fund for Reconstruction (SRF) pledged by the international partners and friends of South Sudan and to be administered by Board of Special Reconstruction Fund (BSRF). South Sudan needs a vibrant economy with well-structured and functioning transitional institutions and mechanisms, instead of a huge, but redundant peacekeeping force.

*Former Political Officer UNMISS

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