Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 12 September 2020

UNMISS should reconsider premature withdrawal from POC sites


By Dak Buoth

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was constituted by the United Nations Security Council one day before our country’s independence in July 2011. It is made up of 15,000 military personnel, 1,800 police, and 2,800 civilian workers. In accordance with Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the peacekeeping mission is concerned with the protection of civilians and peacekeeping among other mandates.

On 12 March 2020, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 15 March 2021. This was necessitated by their grave alarm and concern about the political, security, economic and humanitarian crisis, and the violence that has affected the country since December 2013.

On or about September 9th, 2020, the UNMISS under the leadership of David Shearer surprisingly announced unplanned decision to leave or abandon the Protection of Civilian Sites (POCS) to the Government Forces. This latest decision has generated unending protests and criticisms among the internally displaced persons, concern South Sudanese and people of good-will. It is regrettable that UNMISS first began to withdraw its forces from Bor POCs where attacks are rampant. For almost a week now, the Residents of POCS in Bentiu, Juba and Malakal are persistently protesting and praying for UNMISS to reverse its plan to leave them in wrong hands, wrong time and in the wrong place. In my view, this move to leave IDPs in government’s hand is akin to putting hyenas in charge of goats.

However, it is worth noting that UNMISS played a singular and significant role in our country. Many of our vulnerable children, women and the Elderly people are alive today because of UNMISS protection. Were it not for UNMISS many would have not survived in the hand of the rogue combatants who violates Human Rights with impunity.

As at now, the situation is still volatile. There has been a lot of inter-communal conflicts allegedly sponsored by the warring parties. Therefore UNMISS’ decision to leave POCS is unwise and untimely given that the Security Arrangement, Retraining, Reunification of the security forces are not completed. In fact, there are no updates on when these fundamental provisions of the peace agreement will be completed.

The security sector in the current administration headed by President Salva Kiir is not yet qualified to protect IDPs from other ethnic groups in the country. As we are well aware, the vast majority of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are perceived to be pro-opposition, and that is why the President has never sympathized with them. He once referred to them as people who have been politicized. This is a misrepresentation of the truth because we know the IDPS are those who ran for their lives after their homes were torched.

Since the formation of the government of National Unity in February 2020, nothing is done to restore public confidence in this new administration. As we speak, the country of South Sudan does not have NATIONAL ARMY AND NATIONAL POLICE to maintain law and order.

The armed groups that you see and wrongly called the National Army is a tribal militia that we cannot entrust with lives and security in South Sudan. Thus, the UNMISS Police and Army should continue carrying its mandates until the new administration is ready to perform its constitutional roles and responsibilities. The decision to leave POCS means exposing those vulnerable civilians’ lives to imminent danger.

I see even President Salva Kiir is not willing to protect the POCS. If he was willing, he would have come open to express his government readiness to protect internally displaced persons in the country. The fact that he is remaining silent on this serious matter indicates his unwillingness to substitute or replace UNMISS in protecting civilians. There are reasons to believe that President Kiir is only prepared to protect his seat and not civilians.

In view of the foregoing, should UNMISS fail to heed this call to remain in charge of UN camps, the head of UNMISS David Shearer shall be liable for any eventuality. Why should they leave before peace is restored?

We expect UNMISS Head, David Shearer to act fairly. There is no justification for his decision to leave the Protection of POCs to government soldiers that are known for their laxity and unprofessionalism. Having said that, I hope UNMISS will listen to the voices of the wailing displaced persons that need their services than never before. It is their rights to be protected by the competent and legitimate body formed by the United Nations Security Council during this difficult time in the country.

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com

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